What Will Replace Instagram?

Myspace, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat. Each social network has touched the height of mainstream popularity. For however brief a time, each has been the nucleus of popular culture. Right now, there is no question that Instagram holds that title. Which is why we focus all of our engineering and product development effort on Instagram.

The question remains- how will your investment in building your Instagram persona hold up over time? Will Instagram ever be replaced?

The Myspace to Facebook story goes something like this. Myspace was easy to sign up for and provided the best-in-class search tools to help you find your friends and a whole bunch of other people, too. This was enough to beat out Friendster and Xanga and whatever other now-forgotten social networks existed at the time. Toward the end, Myspace was too open ended. People didn’t necessarily want to be able to customize their own profiles or add songs. They wanted a more standardized experience in which they were closer to and more cloistered with their inner circle. So Facebook–quite easily–took over. You know how that story goes.

Unless you created one of the first social games (Mafia Wars?), coordinated an army of fake profiles that linked to porn sites, or your name was Tila Tequila, you didn’t make money using Myspace. It just didn’t happen. It wasn’t a concept that existed. Even on Facebook, it took a long time before people started selling likes and engagements.

We’ve reached a point where, culturally, how many likes you have really means something. People poke fun at the concept, but there’s this grey market industry–the one we operate in–that generates untold sums of money ultimately based off how much value people place on a quality ‘like’. Being an influencer means something. Having 10,000 followers, as a baseline, means you’re someone of some significance. Weird, I say, as I remember that people on Myspace (who self-labeled themselves as “whores”) used to collect friends just for fun.

My outlook is that Instagram will remain on top for some time. It’s exactly what people want right now. Many of the most relevant people in popular culture are based on Instagram. It’s pure. It’s neat. It’s viciously addicting. Sure, a lot of personal brands (mine included!) are supplemented by Snapchat, and more traditional businesses are on Facebook and have their own websites (mine included!), but the most interesting trend I’ve been seeing is that all types of brands are attempting to center their presences on Instagram.

Pictures can tell a thousand words, and as our attention spans shrink, flicking through hashtagged photographs all day is exactly what we want to do. It’s kind of disturbing, but our brains are wired for it. Leaving Myspace for Facebook was like flipping off a lightswitch. Leaving Instagram and recovering from the unnatural, short-circuited way that it trained your brain to produce dopamine won’t be nearly as easy.

Ironically, I see Instagram’s replacement as a spiritual clone of Myspace. WHAT? You might think I’m crazy. And I am. The thing is, though, that the only place we can go from here is outward. It’s like the big bang theory of social media.

What replaces Instagram will be a hyper-connected network of personal profiles, offering more customizability than Instagram or Facebook while retaining the wonders of the high-tech newsfeed and other shit most people don’t understand but take for granted. Aren’t I just describing Tumblr? Yes and no. I think Tumblr’s concept was right but it became too… indie. It was too scattered and niche. What I’m imagining is something more seamless and more pocket-sized. The profile building experience must be significantly easier than today’s process of creating a WIX page. Therein lies the difficulty.

However, now that billions of dollars are at play in the primary market and millions of dollars are at play in ours, there are a lot of people who simply won’t allow a new social media platform the chance to compete with established players. Instagram will be a fixture in your life until you die.