Linda Yaccarino, the incoming Twitter CEO hand-picked by Elon Musk, couldn’t resist taking a dig on Sunday at Instagram, the Meta-owned app that suffered a temporary global meltdown that same day and which is in the process of producing a standalone Twitter competitor. “Game on!” Yaccarino tweeted, and I don’t blame her one bit for the swipe at a company reportedly prepping its text-based, Twitter-like version of Instagram to launch sometime this summer.
Mostly, I don’t blame her because this thing is absolutely, 100%, going to be dead on arrival.
For one thing, plenty of users who’ve declared themselves disenchanted with the Musk-era Twitter and who’ve promised to jump ship a la “If Trump is elected, I’m moving to Canada” are nevertheless still there, still flinging all those tweets out into the world. I’ll grant you, of course, that at any given moment there’s always a greater than zero chance of irrelevance and eventual oblivion for any digital property — from erstwhile high-flyers of journalism like Vice and Buzzfeed, to a social darling like Twitter — but Instagram’s parent company also has no track record whatsoever of building new successes from the ground up in the face of competitive threats.
Instagram’s parent doesn’t invent the future. It buys it.
We would be having an entirely different conversation if Meta was acquiring an upstart Twitter rival like Bluesky, (just like the company did with Instagram, for that matter) but no. Meta, over the years, has demonstrated a Google-like mastery of throwing half-baked ideas out into the world, from original content on Facebook Watch to that old Facebook app Paper, only to send them abandoned to an early grave. What has worked, however, is Meta acquiring the Next Big Thing — like, for example, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus.
Furthermore, what problem does an Instagram clone of Twitter solve, and who is it for? Chances are, you probably already have accounts with both services — or, just as likely, your personal preference for either mostly text or images means you’ve already picked your tribe and chosen one over the other. What Instagram is doing here certainly isn’t for the people already using it. As we’ve reported previously about the feature set this Twitter clone will include at launch, users will be able to also attach links, photos, and videos, in addition to engaging with likes, replies, and reposts — you know, all the things you can already do with Instagram right now.
It seems to me that Instagram would be better served by cleaning up the feature-packed app it’s already got now, rather than starting from scratch with something all new that literally no one is asking for. “I think we’ve lost the soul of what made Instagram Instagram,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said during an episode of the On with Kara Swisher podcast earlier this year, adding that Meta’s incrementally aggressive push to commercialize the app means that Systrom doesn’t think it’s as useful for keeping up with what friends and family are posting anymore.
“My biggest regret, I think, at Instagram is how commercial it got.”