10 Things that Instagram Needs to Fix Right Now

10 Things that Instagram Needs to Fix Right Now

Dear Instagram. Here are ten things that would make Instagram that little bit better and keep your users happy. Thanks for your attention.

Filmmakers and photographers are the heart and soul of Instagram. We might not account for the majority of clicks (that’s reserved for celebrities, handbags, and cats) but our images give the platform integrity and the creativity that turned it from an obscure image-sharing app to one of the world’s most powerful advertising platforms.

As content creators, we’ve come to terms with the fact that the chronological feed is never coming back but there are still many aspects that need to be fixed. Some are simple tweaks to functionality, others require a complete rethink by those at the top of how the app treats our content. Let’s get started.

1. Count Our Hashtags for Us

We remember the guessing game when Instagram suddenly, without warning, imposed the limit of 30 hashtags. Then began the fiddly task of counting every single hashtag to ensure you didn’t exceed this mystical number for risk of having your entire caption mysteriously vanish after you had posted. 

Today there are various solutions to help you keep count; for example, Later keeps a tally once you pass 15, and I have a script set up on my Mac to allow me to count a number of highlighted words with a keyboard shortcut. However, having an in-app counter would be both incredibly useful and unbelievably simple to implement. 

2. Give Us a Reverse Image Look-Up Tool

With so many images constantly being freebooted, having the ability to search for our content being used illegally would be of great value. IMATAG has proven that the technology exists and it wouldn’t take much for Instagram to add an invisible watermark to every image uploaded to make our work identifiable and searchable.

3. Simplify the Copyright Infringement Report

Reporting instagram copyright infringement

Is this confusing? Yes. Is this deliberate? Probably.

When you stumble across your content being used without permission, the process of reporting the copyright violation is confusing and complicated. Instagram would argue that this is to reduce the potential for unnecessary or frivolous claims; cynics would argue that it’s because there are so many images being used illegally that making the process easier would make the number of reports unmanageable. 

Whatever the reason, it should be simplified. If you want to learn how to navigate the existing process in less than two minutes, check out my quick guide.

4. Tell Us What the Hell Is Going on With Line Breaks

Instagram caption line breaks are inconsistent

One minute my dashes work, the next minute they don't. The rules surrounding Instagram's line breaks are a mystery.

Every time I try to break up my longer captions into paragraphs, I think I find a system and then, after a period, it suddenly stops working. I’ve tried dashes, full stops, multiple lines — everything. There’s no consistency and, thanks to my OCD, it drives me slightly insane. Please, Instagram, tell us what you want us to do and stick with it.

5. Separate Likes From Mentions in Notifications

Instagram should separate likes from mentions in notifications

Fortunately I spotted this one when it came through. Had it been a few hours later, it would have disappeared forever.

For anyone with more than a couple of thousand followers, the notification system is a mess. For anyone with multiple accounts, it’s a car crash. I love engaging with followers by responding to comments and mentions, but sometimes finding those posts at the end of a day of not looking at my phone can be a nightmare. Being able to separate likes from comments and mentions would make engaging with people a lot easier.

6. Give Us Direct Messaging From a Web Browser

As the platform has grown, so has the number of commercial enquiries that 
come via Instagram’s inbox. Coupled with the growth of stories as a means of engaging with an audience, this inbox is suddenly a time-consuming part of the app. Having a means of replying from a proper computer would be a godsend. 

7. Allow Us to Retrieve Declined Messages

If you receive a message from someone that you don’t follow, it arrives in a separate part of your inbox as a message request which you can then accept or decline. If you accidentally decline a message, there is no means of retrieving it. Given that commercial enquiries are increasingly common, one accidental swipe of the thumb could mean missing out on work. Of course, most formal enquiries go via email but if a creative director stumbles upon your work and wants to send you a quick message to see if you fancy a coffee, Instagram’s messaging service is the obvious choice. Because this inbox is becoming hugely important, we need a better means of managing it.

8. Let Us Organize Our Feed Into Lists

One of the biggest problems with the end of the much-loved chronological feed was the fact that certain users suddenly disappeared from your feed. Close friends and family were no longer getting through Instagram’s seemingly brutal algorithm and many of the people that I followed might as well have stopped posting altogether. Things have improved slightly but this hasn’t stopped me from creating my own “finsta” (fake Insta) account where I post random photos of friends and family, and also follow very few accounts so that I can see my friends’ babies, cats, snowmen, and holiday snaps.

Having a finsta account can be fun but another option would be the ability to filter my feed into different groups. For example, if I want to browse all of the climbing-related accounts that I follow, I could create a list and curate my own feed. I already do this on Twitter to carve up politics, sport, architecture, and so on, and for Instagram, it would build on the existing feature that allows you to follow specific hashtags.

9. Sort Out Freebooting

Instagram freebooting

Climbing legend Lynn Hill inadvertently advertising travel plugs and other assorted tat.

A huge number of views on Instagram are of freebooted content and the platform is still reluctant to address the problem. Regramming is still not possible within the app quite simply because it breaches the terms and conditions; by keeping it third party, Instagram is able to conveniently turn a blind eye and, as a result, the app has become more like Tumblr and less like the app created by its founders. If I glance at the search tab where Instagram suggests photographs and videos it thinks I'll be interested in, five out of the first twelve items are stolen.

10. Get More Moderators

A thirteen-year-old opening the app for the first time can type in the hashtag #gore and find grossly inappropriate content in a matter of clicks. A combination of algorithms and humans keeps vast swathes of porn at bay, but having a computer identify brutality and asking real people to sift through upsetting images means that violence is not hard to find. It doesn't help when Instagram TV is suggesting videos of child exploitation and genital mutilation.

In addition, with such a huge number of users, Instagram has a massive responsibility to manage its platform, both in terms of protecting younger users but also ensuring the integrity of its advertising, a tall order when influencers are posting fake sponsored content.

As a platform with billions of users that creates billions of dollars' worth of revenue, Instagram has a responsibility to ensure that it is moderated correctly. That might be incredibly expensive, but given Instagram's size and influence, it's a price that should be worth paying.

What Else?

Love or hate Instagram, it's a massive part of the photographic and filmmaking industries and there's always room for improvement. What changes would you like to see? Leave your comments below.

Lead image is a composite using a photograph by Oleg Magni.

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39 Comments

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Just make all of Instagram work normally in a browser already! A feature for feature mirror of the mobile app. What exactly is the downside?

michaeljin's picture

Can't you just download the Windows app on the Microsoft Store to use it from your computer?

Charlie Ewing's picture

That doesn't allow you to post content from your Hard Drive, and is still buggy A.F.

Jen Photographs's picture

It does. It's how I post pictures to my IG. There is a long hang time while the app opens my pictures folder, but it does work.

Musing Eye's picture

Jen Photographs you can post images from your Windows app? Mine can't. I wonder if I need to uninstall and reinstall to get a new version or something. I also can't reach messages or look at multi-image posts, if yours does that.

Jen Photographs's picture

Yes, my app can access the messages and multi-images as well as post images. I can't access the business insights on it and some options in account settings, though. For those, I have to use the phone app.

Mulling on it. A possible reason: my laptop is a touchscreen, and it has the option to switch into tablet mode. I don't need to switch to use the app, but I've read that one or other (possibly both? Not clear) features are needed to use some of the app's features.

Can anyone else confirm?

The Windows app is only moderately useful if you have a touchscreen or can pretend to. If you just have a mouse and keyboard it's pretty awful.

And that's just general UI issues, you can't share from your HD as Charlie said and overall it's just a mess.

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

Use an addon, that tells Instagram, that your Browser is an iPhone or Android. Then you can upload directly from the Harddrive. That's how I'm uploading it. Only downside so far, you cannot upload multiple images. But I'm agree, there is no downside at all, to give us those features.

Musing Eye's picture

Or just put your web browser in developer mode (F12 on Chrome) and tell it up emulate your phone of choice.

This is actually a really good list! I would add to it something to help template posts. I tend to use a distinct set of tags for landscape shots and a different but consistent set for portraits, etc. I would love to start posts with an option to reuse a template for the genre of post I'm making.

Philipp Pley's picture

You can retrieve declined messages by going to that person's profile, hitting the send message button and the previously declined message will be there in the conversation.

Andy Day's picture

Yep, this works. However, on the occasions that this has happened to me, I've never seen the user before and I have no means of tracking them down without a photographic memory. :/

Disconnect it completely from Facebook so I stop getting contact suggestions based on FB friends and they stop getting suggested my IG.

And get the web interface working correctly!

Mr Drizz's picture

Alas the frebooting is probably part of the business model now. If that's the case then at least have any likes and comments on those feeds appear in our feeds

Stop cropping photos for me- I can handle that all by myself ahead of uploading (especially with 'slideshows' )

Scott Andrews's picture

After getting shot of Facebook and Twitter, I was feeling like it might be time to do the same with Instagram. This list has really crystallised my mind.

I don't need to share my images with strangers, for strangers to validate or not, the worthiness of my images. After many years of social media, I can't think of a single friend established from social media - so why have it

Rayann Elzein's picture

I have made many, many friends on Instagram. Exciting collaborations. Even got a few clients there. I do hate it though over there, and am posting less and less. But it's not useless either.

Scott Andrews's picture

I may have been particularly pessimistic when I posted my comment :) Glad its been good to you and am sure others.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Haha and I may have been particularly optimistic :) I meant, I did get good connections there, but the amount of spam that targets my account has made me tune down my presence there A LOT ;)

John Friese's picture

Less ads, less ads, less ads and make the thing work chronologically like when it first came out. I'm missing so many things.

Rayann Elzein's picture

What else? Maybe finally remove all the fake accounts, bots, spam and alike? I'm "nothing" on Instagram, and yet, I get on average 20 new followers per day that have no profile picture, 0 image posted, 0 follower, and 0 following... I delete them one by one, but how do they get there in the first place? I can't believe it's so hard for the algorithm to simply delete those accounts....

Set a damn standard for nudity and stick to it. It's amazing how much HQ artwork (that happens to feature nudity THAT'S CENSORED!) get flagged and accounts get deleted and yet in two seconds, I can easily find plenty of porn and spam accounts. Insta needs real moderation, not just garbage algorithms.

Nathan Klein's picture

I wish that insta would better support landscape orientation and panoramic images. For example it would be great if a user was able to click on an image and turn their phone so that the image occupies the whole of their phone screen. Similar to the viewing experience on vero

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Make the landscape orientation rotate like Facebook so the image can take advantage of longer width.

Joe Redski's picture

The ability to rearrange your current feed would be nice.

Cristian Perotti's picture

I would add a couple of things I wished instagram had.

1. I wish the user had the ability to choose the audience for each post.
2. I know it would be virtually impossible to differentiate artistic nudity (photography wise) and just plain vulgar nudity by an algorithm. So, because of that, boudoir, nude, etc. photographers cannot showcase their work. So, I suggest that if your account has nudity, it must be "private" and when you want to follow them, a pop up box appears saying something like "if you are over 18 years old, click ok".

Musing Eye's picture

Agree. A simple opt-in would match the model of most websites and prevent the account deletion madness. Or follow the Flickr model and have posters flag their own work, then users opt-in to see such work, and ban only things that are not flagged.

Musing Eye's picture

#4 (line breaks) has to be the simplest to fix on your list and yet one of the most infuriating. At least with many of the other things on the list I see they are substantial amounts of development. I end up writing my posts in a google doc and then pasting into IG to get linebreaks and such sorted.

Gregory Thelian's picture

The #1 thing I still can't wrap my head around is why can't I reorganize the photos that I post? This would help so much in keeping my feed looking more consistent then it actually is and it would help those people who do the 9 square giant photos to keep that in place as they post new images.

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