What is this feature being tested by Instagram that has users leaving the platform?


I can’t believe that more than 12 years have elapsed since Facebook announced that it was going to spend $1 billion to buy Instagram in April 2012. At the time the deal was announced, many were wondering why Mark Zuckerberg would spend so much money on a photo filter app. We also wondered how Facebook (now Meta) would monetize its acquisition. After maturing into one of the top social media apps on the internet, earlier this year, an estimate valued Instagram at $45 billion making Facebook’s purchase one of the most successful deals in tech history.
A revised Terms of Service posted by Instagram a few months after the deal was announced led some to believe that Instagram was going to sell pictures posted on the site by subscribers thus turning the app into the world’s largest stock photo agency. That never happened and Instagram co-founder and ex-CEO Kevin Systrom apologized stating that the point of the new ToS was to let users know that the app was experimenting with innovative forms of advertising.
Per Android Authority, Instagram is currently testing a new feature with the name Ad Breaks. These ads interrupt the Instagram user’s browsing of the app requiring him to view the ad for three to five seconds before being allowed to continue browsing through his feed. Meta has been looking for ways to run ads that don’t feel as though it has been reading your mind and knows exactly what products you’re interested in.

As a result, Meta has been looking at other forms of monetization including subscriptions, in-app purchases, and now Ad Breaks. When an Instagram user sees an Ad Break, it might be prefaced by a page giving an explanation of what it is. This page says, “You’re seeing an ad break. Ad breaks are a new way of seeing ads on Instagram. Sometimes you may need to view an ad before you can keep browsing.”

These ads are labeled with a little pill-shaped notification indicating that you are viewing an Ad Break and the seconds count down allowing you to know when it is okay to resume browsing your feed. Again, this is a test so not all Instagram users are seeing this new feature at the moment. The response from Instagram users who have experienced Ad breaks has not been positive. Several Instagram users said on Reddit that they have decided to stop using the platform.

One Reddit user wrote, “I hate this new “feature” so much – it is so in your face and to me, feels like a terrible business decision. The whole platform is already basically “soft ads” that generate revenue based on people being on there for ages, consuming content without thinking too much about it all and now they’re forcing users to stop scrolling and drawing attention to the fact they’re on an app designed to sell them things. So far I simply close the app as soon as an ad break pops up and if this continues, I’ll be unsubscribing.”

It’s possible that you haven’t had your Instagram experience interrupted yet by Ad Breaks, and if Meta decides not to implement the feature, you might never see it. But if you have had your browsing interrupted by it, you now know exactly what an Ad Break is.

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