Why does my Instagram suddenly look so different? Welcome to the murky world of app design and ‘dark patterns’

The widespread criticism from Instagram users of the latest version of the app raises the question: Why did they change it?

One answer is for the image-and-video-sharing app to be more like its main rival, TikTok, which has been growing its user base faster.

TikTok is purely video, so Instagram is heading that way too.

“We’ve been trying to make Instagram do better by video,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a video last week.

But TikTok’s competition and the pivot to video still doesn’t explain all the changes.

Why is it so hard to mute videos now?

Why is it no longer possible to rapidly and smoothly scroll through your feed?

The answers to these questions lie in behavioral economics, app design, and the murky world of “dark patterns”.

Instagram says users want to watch more videos, even if some are saying the opposite.

What’s a dark pattern?

Dark patterns are all the ways websites, apps and other user interfaces are designed to deliberately obscure, mislead, coerce and/or deceive website visitors and app users into making unintended choices.

A UK-based user experience consultant, Harry Brignull, invented the term in 2010 when studying the websites of budget airlines.

More than a decade later, the idea of ​​dark patterns has become commonplace.

“When I came up with idea of ​​dark patterns, I thought it was just a niche thing that was occasionally used. I thought I was really clever for noticing it,” Mr Brignull said.

“And now it’s everywhere.”

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