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Why Instagram Is Barely Recognizable Now

Instagram was once a simple photo app. With the addition of a new carousel, it’s becoming a visual circus.

(Instagram/Ringer illustration)
(Instagram/Ringer illustration)

Instagram was once a simple tool: Users uploaded what was likely an ugly, amateur photo; Instagram would turn it into a square; a filter would be chosen; maybe a frame would be added if you were fancy (remember frames?); and then, poof, it’d be posted. Watching a photo crawl to 11 likes, turning names to numbers in the interface, was a cheap thrill.

Virtually none of these steps exist anymore. The photos uploaded are higher quality; Instagram no longer forces the square on users; there are many more filters — and the aesthetic is no longer limited to “grainy old Polaroid”; we lost frames a long time ago; and names turn into numbers well before the 11th like.

And now, there’s another significant change: Posts aren’t limited to one photo. Starting Wednesday, all users have the option to add up to 10 photos (or videos or Boomerangs or Hyperlapses) to a post, creating a carousel of images to swipe through. If the idea sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in Instagram before — but only advertisers had access to it. You can’t caption individual images within the post (so choose wisely), but you can assign different filters to each one.

<em>(Instagram)</em>
(Instagram)
(Instagram)
(Instagram)

This is a leveling of the playing field by Instagram, finally offering an advertiser tool to all users. And the update is fun; albums always made sense for Instagram, an app centered on sharing photos. It’s more in the spirit of the platform’s mission than Instagram Stories, the live video tool launched last year to compete with Snapchat and Facebook Live. Still, it’s interesting to look back at the evolution of what was originally such a stark, simple, focused app: The Be All Things mantra that Facebook will never untangle itself from has surely bled into Instagram, and what was once just a streamlined feed of photos is now a visual circus, with the carousel to boot.