Media & Entertainment

Instagram redesign puts Reels and Shop tabs on the home screen

Comment

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram is putting its TikTok competitor Reels front-and-center in a redesigned version of its app by giving it the center position on its new navigation bar. The update, arriving today, also replaces the Activity tab (heart icon) with the Shop tab, following a test that had changed this aspect of the app’s home screen earlier this summer.

In the redesigned app, both the Compose button and the Activity tab have been relocated to the top-right of the home screen, while the center middle button now belongs to Reels.

Before, Reels videos were mixed in with other photo and video content on the Instagram Explore page, though Instagram this fall began to experiment with different layouts (see below).

This led to some early complaints from users looking for Reels in the app, who had said it was harder to find, the company says.

The redesign, which makes Reels the main button in the app, is an aggressive attempt on Instagram’s part to direct users to its short-form video feed, which has so far seen only a lukewarm reception from reviewers. Critics have said Reels lacks competitive features, contributes to Instagram’s bloat, feels stale and features a lot of recycled TikTok content. At best, it’s been deemed a shameless clone.

Instagram, on the other hand, would argue that it’s still early days for its Reels short-form video in its app. And the change could encourage more creators to share their Reels, given the now high-profile position given to the product.

That said, it cannot be understated how significant it is to relocate a Compose button in an app that relies on user-generated content. That Instagram would minimize the button’s importance in this way is a testament to how much of its future relies on making Reels work.

“The way we think about this update is that we’re trying to make it really easy to use an expanded suite of products now available on Instagram, while maintaining a simplicity,” explains Instagram’s director of Product Management, Robby Stein.

Simplicity, given the wide range of products Instagram now offers, could become a challenge.

When tapped, the relocated Compose button will now take users to a redesigned Camera experience, too. Here, you can either pick photos or videos to post to your Feed, or scroll over to choose to post to your Story, Reels, or go Live. While this doesn’t replace the swipe gesture to get to the Camera, it does give all the different post formats a more equal footing.

Image Credits: Instagram

Next to the new Compose button is the relocated Activity button (the heart icon) and a redesigned messaging button that takes you to your Instagram DMs — which are now connected to Facebook Messenger’s universe. The messages button itself has been changed to look like the Facebook Messenger icon (for those who opted in to the new experience), and not the paper airplane icon that was previously associated with the Instagram inbox.

Another major change sees the Instagram Shop winning a home screen placement.

The company began testing the Shop tab in place of the Activity tab in July, where it would send users to an updated version of the Instagram Shop. Here, users could filter by brands they followed on Instagram or by product category. And, in many cases, users could pay for their purchase using Instagram’s own Checkout feature, which involves a selling fee.

New forecast pegs TikTok to top 1.2B monthly active users in 2021

Instagram’s push to make its app more of an online shopping destination through this and other changes comes at a critical time for the e-commerce market. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by at least five years, according to some analysts. That means any plans Instagram had to become a major player in online commerce were also just expedited.

Image Credits: Instagram

Combined, both moves signal a company that’s worried about the impact TikTok may have on the long-term future of its business.

The Chinese-owned rival video app has been surging in popularity around the world, and particularly with the Gen Z demographic. TikTok is now projected to top 1.2 billion monthly active users in 2021, according to a recent forecast. However, the app’s U.S. fate is still unknown due to a lack of attention from the Trump administration over the TikTok ban, as well as uncertainty as to how the incoming Biden administration will proceed to enforce it.

Today’s TikTok captures users’ attention with its short-form content, personalized “For You” feed, sizable music catalog and special effects.

Image Credits: Instagram

But there’s also potential for the app to expand beyond being just an entertainment platform, as its recent partnership with Shopify on social commerce indicates. TikTok’s video format makes for an ideal medium to showcase a brand’s products — which is why Walmart angled in on the would-be TikTok acquisition for its U.S. operations, driven by Trump’s TikTok ban.

If and when TikTok scales this side of its business in the U.S., it could win social commerce market share from both Facebook and Instagram. And its appeal on the entertainment front could make it more difficult for Reels, or anyone else, to compete.

TikTok partners with Shopify on social commerce

But Instagram has one big advantage in this battle: user data. It can inform its own personalization algorithms for Reels based on what users are doing elsewhere in its app, and even on Facebook if the user connected their account.

However, Stein says the main signals Reels personalization algorithms use are based on data coming from engagement within Reels, like whether you liked a video, for example.

Though Instagram users may not appreciate the buttons being relocated, Stein says, in tests, people came to adapt the changes. And in the end, it was necessary.

“We try to maintain simplicity by making sure that it’s clear why everything is where it is. But also, each tab has a really clear purpose to you,” says Stein. “So there’s now one clear place to go to start watching video and be entertained and, hopefully, have some fun,” he says. “There’s one really clear place to go now, when you want to post. And there’s one really clear place now you want to shop, which is really important to us.”

The changes will roll out to all markets where Reels and Shop are live, including the U.S., over the next few days.

Correction, 11/12/20 9:20 am et: We initially misspelled Robby Stein’s name. It’s spelled Robby Stein, not Robbie Stein. This has been corrected. Apologies for the error. 

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

8 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities