Instagram co-founder believes the app now has too many ads and has lost its “soul”.

Meta-owned Instagram has evolved over the years from a largely photo-sharing app to what many users now call a primary hub for sharing quick video snippets in the form of Stories, as well as calling and chatting “rooms” with friends — also as a marketplace who is saturated with influencers vying for attention.

At least that’s how Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom sees it, and said in a new podcast interview with longtime tech journalist Kara Swisher this week.

“I think we’ve lost the soul of what made Instagram Instagram,” Systrom said during the final episode of the On with Kara Swisher podcast, adding that Meta’s increasingly aggressive push to commercialize the app means that Systrom doesn’t find them useful enough to keep up with what friends and family are posting. “My biggest regret, I think, with Instagram is how commercial it’s become.”

Instagram co-founder: This is ‘not the Instagram we started with’

Of course, Instagram’s parent company is currently suffering from financial pressures that include an advertising slowdown, a slowing economy, and iOS privacy changes that have lost billions of dollars in revenue. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire has been conducting sweeping waves of layoffs in recent weeks — and more to come.

However, Meta’s push to commercialize Instagram also dates back years and created enough friction between Zuckerberg and his co-founders that it drove them out of the company altogether. Their latest project: A news app called Artifact with a vertically scrolling feed reminiscent of Apple News and uses AI to learn what its users want to see over time.

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And of course, the app has a visually pleasing and clean interface considering these are the Instagram co-founders we’re talking about.

Elsewhere during the chat with Swisher, meanwhile, Systrom also lamented how Instagram encourages users to basically overhaul their lives and present the world with curated perfection that doesn’t necessarily correspond to reality. “Life is really tough,” he continued, “and whatever people post on Instagram is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s that race to the bottom to see who can be the most perfect.”

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom speaks onstage at a New York Times Dealbook event. Image Credit: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times Basically a TikTok clone now?

Incidentally, the elephant in the room here is Meta’s ongoing TikTok fication of its entire ecosystem, where the company has added Reels to Instagram (which are essentially just public Stories), added Stories to Facebook, and encourages cross-posting of content between Instagram and Facebook (which makes Facebook feel more alive, I suppose), and rely on a TikTok-like AI engine under both apps that displays content — again like TikTok — from people and brands that users aren’t currently following.

However, it will be incredibly ironic if the Biden administration follows up on a threat to ban TikTok in the US, which would clear the field for Meta … and no doubt improve Meta’s ad business.