Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, isn’t thrilled with the platform’s TikTok competitor Reels. He discussed the format, which launched in the US in August, during an interview with The Verge’s Decoder podcast today.
“I’m not yet happy with it,” he says. “We’re growing both in terms of how much people are sharing and how much people are consuming, but we have a long way to go. And we have to be honest that TikTok is ahead.”
He went on to say the team is mostly focused on “table stakes” right now, and not honed in on how to differentiate itself. Specifically, he calls out TikTok’s innovative creative tools, like filters and effects that spur new video meme formats as something Instagram isn’t making on its own yet but needs to eventually do.
“I think we have to get better at building more powerful and creative tools that aren’t necessarily a meme or a sort of moment in a package, but give people who are more creative than us and make content for a living the ability to make something that’s going to pop,” he says.
Instagram is also seeing a conflict between its many different video formats. Mosseri says “most people” likely don’t know the difference between videos posted to Instagram and IGTV, the app’s format for longer videos that’s existed since 2018.
“That’s probably too nuanced a distinction to resonate with anybody, so we’re looking about how we can — not just with IGTV, but across all of Instagram — simplify and consolidate ideas, because last year we placed a lot of new bets,” he says. “I think this year we have to go back to our focus on simplicity and craft.”
This is a wildly different tone than when Instagram launched the format and called it the “future of video.” But it speaks to the rapid success of TikTok which, in 2018, wasn’t fully known in mainstream culture but is now a driver of conversation, memes, and viral dances. Mosseri hints that IGTV and Reels, as well as general videos posted to the Instagram grid, need some sort of consolidation and clarity, which makes sense, especially when the app is trying to do everything all at once.