Despite the intense criticism and scrutiny, Instagram is growing from strength to strength. However, the Meta-controlled social media platform won’t admit it officially.
Per reports by CNBC, Instagram now has more 2 billion monthly active users (MAU). This milestone was revealed by Instagram employees in an unofficial statement. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, does not break out financial reports or other information about the photo-sharing platform.
The head of Instagram recently appeared before Congress, which is getting increasingly concerned about the negative impact of Instagram usage on vulnerable users. He was quizzed on how the company protects kids on the platform.
This came after revelations surfaced on how easy it is for kids to find drugs and drug dealers by simply following trending hashtags.
The last time Instagram published data about the number of users on its platform was in June 2018, when it crossed the 1 billion mark. Since Instagram was started in 2010, it meant the platform took 8 years to reach the billion mark but only 2 years to double it, showing phenomenal growth.
Even within the company, the MAU is not publicized, and the employees that spoke anonymously to CNBC claimed they knew the number from internal conversations. Instagram reportedly reached the mark in October, just as Facebook was about to change its name to Meta.
Analysts have chimed in, with some pointing out how the growth was significant, given the level of competition Instagram is facing from platforms like TikTok and Snapchat. TikTok, in particular, has been out-innovating Instagram in many aspects, although the latter has been responding by brazenly copying the new features TikTok has added.
David Heger, an analyst at Edward Jones, told CNBC, “That’s a pretty significant compound annual growth rate of users. It tells me that even with the challenge of TikTok recently, Instagram is still certainly relevant to people.”
Recent studies by Forrester show that among Americans aged from 12 to 17, 63 percent use TikTok at least once a week, while the figure for Instagram is 57 percent.
In another evidence of TikTok’s increased popularity, the platform edged out Instagram in terms of app downloads, with the former recording nearly 600 million this year on Apple and Google devices, while Instagram attracted 570 million. This data was supplied by SensorTower.
Commenting on how TikTok managed to overtake Instagram, Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research, said, “TikTok did an extraordinarily good job of winning at that youngest demographic over the past four or five years. It did to video sharing and short-video sharing what Snap did to messaging and disrupting that particular demographic.”
While Meta wants to attract more teens to Instagram, it will have to juggle that with demands from many quarters for their safety while using the platform. It also has to repair its dented image after a whistleblower leaked documents that proved Meta knew about the harm Instagram does to teens’ mental health by means of a study it commissioned. The company reportedly did nothing about the findings.
Instagram was asked to stop developing what it called Instagram Kids meant for children below 13 years.
When asked to suggest a solution, Mosseri proposed creating an industry body that will create standards for protecting kids online and pledged that Instagram would abide by any rules made by the organization.
However, members of Congress were not impressed by the plan to self-regulate. “I believe that the time for self-policing and self-regulation is over,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection. “Some of the Big Tech companies have said, ‘Trust us.’ That seems to be what Instagram is saying in your testimony. But self-policing depends on trust. The trust is gone.”
Facebook itself has almost 3 billion MAUs, but the growth rate has slowed down. However, both platforms are increasing their revenue yearly, with Facebook expected to pull in $135 billion next year and Instagram $60.5 billion.