Apps you should try if you miss the old Instagram

Instagram has been criticized in recent weeks for prioritizing short videos – known as Reels on the platform – over photos in an attempt to replicate the success of its rival TikTok.

Famous celebrities and influencers like Kim Kardashian and her sister Kylie Jenner have been vocal about their distaste for the change. Jenner again shared a post calling for “Make Instagram Instagram again,” adding, “I just want to see cute pictures of my friends.” This prompted Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri to respond to criticism in a post in which he revealed that “more and more of Instagram will become video over time,” marking a major departure from the photo-sharing app’s original purpose.

Read more: A brief history of the fateful first day of Instagram

But while Mosseri says that’s partly due to the rapid influx of videos posted on Instagram, Ryan Kemp, a freelance photographer and owner of @theworldisanalog on Instagram, says the switch has been flipped for users.

“When [Reels] started, Instagram started pushing like, ‘oh, you can make up to $1,000 a month if you’re doing rolls,’ for bigger accounts like me,” Kemp tells TIME. With more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, Kemp tried to implement Reels, but it started to feel inauthentic.

“I think it’s important for everyone to create and share the work they love, even if they don’t share it publicly,” he says. “I think that’s what gets lost in the mix of it all. People just want all the likes and followers and money and that kind of gets in the way. Misses the point.”

Here are some Instagram alternatives that you can use if you miss the old Instagram user experience.


Launched last August, Glass it advertises itself as a photo sharing app that’s not about comparison, it’s about community. Co-Founders Tom Watson and Stefan Borsche I say that they hope to make an app that isn’t charged by addictive algorithms or that collects personal data. This inspired their “rate” feature, which functions similarly to the “like” button, but is defined as more deliberate and slower. The app is programmed to allow users to turn off “ratings” and have no record of the number of “ratings” per post, similar to Instagram’s feature that allows users to hide the number of likes per post.

Glass also claims that users have much more control over the content they consume, with a dedicated chronological feed of photos posted by those you follow.

Users can also use the app in full-screen mode to increase the details of a photo. Unlike Instagram, users have to pay to use this app. Glass costs a $4.99 monthly fee or $29.99 a year to use, after an initial 2-week free trial.

Grain production

The perfect app for film photographers, Grainery looks aesthetically similar to Instagram in its initial setup. However, this app asks users to add the type of camera, lens, or film they use before they can post, in an effort to build an index of photos that users can draw inspiration from.

There is a free version and a $3 monthly membership option. Subscriptions give access to unlimited posts, profile updates and enter users into a monthly raffle for a free roll of film.


Once valued at more than a billion dollars during its peak growth in 2013, Tumblr was one of the few online places for users to share images before Instagram took off. Now a social media platform catering to unique internet subcultures such as fans of shows, books, and television programs, Tumblr has retained its original social blogging features rather than trying to imitate its competitors.

Unlike other social media apps, Tumblr isn’t full of advertising content or influencers. It is a much more functional platform where users can easily find content they like based on their niche. And despite reports of the brand’s decline in recent years – valued at just 3 million dollars in 2019 — Tumblr seems to be becoming popular with users again, says Kemp, who has had a Tumblr account for years. “A lot of people are going back to Tumblr… So maybe eventually I will.”

be real

Unlike Instagram in that users can only post one photo per day, be real marks a push towards giving users a chance to present a more authentic version of themselves, in stark contrast to the heavily curated Instagram profiles we’re used to seeing. Popular with Gen Z, BeReal sporadically sends a warning to its users with a suggested two-minute window to post a photo. Users engage with their friends’ posts through selfie reactions instead of likes, and can only view posts if they upload a photo first.

Read more: BeReal won’t save us from social media just yet

The lack of edits and filters available through the app is enticing for many. “With BeReal, you don’t feel pressured to engage in some form of performative action,” says Philippa Costa, a 22-year-old graduate student at Boston University. “It’s all about being in the moment.”

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