Hey Instagram, Fix Sharing

Throughout its existence, Instagram has been focused on visuals. Exploding to 1M users just a few months after launch, there weren’t many reasons to stray far from their model. As they’ve grown, however, resting on those laurels becomes more and more difficult.

This past year, the platform made several visual updates and introduced a few new features in their editing tools. They also tweaked the user interface here and there. However, many people who generate original content have faced a glaring issue from the very beginning—Instagram has no native reposting feature.

The lack of a formal way to share another user’s content has far-reaching implications. I enumerate those I’ve thought of below, and would like to hear your experiences as they relate to this topic. The only way to effectively address concerns is vocalization followed by discussion. Let’s get the ball rolling.

Tags are not sufficient

Many brands who use others’ images will tag the original poster in the image. This falls short in one major way: the tag isn’t actually crediting that user for anything. Tags have a number of meanings, and who’s to say which is intended? Additionally, tags are the least visible feature in the main interface; users are presented foremost with the image, followed by the comments. Only by tapping the photo do users see who’s tagged.

Captions are not sufficient

Captions are Instagram’s best method at present for crediting original authors. Being tagged in a popular account’s caption can definitely boost follow rates for an author, but once again this approach doesn’t inherently credit the original work. Some users just @mention others with no real explanation as to why. Usually, in the presence of a full caption about the image content, mentions arrive at the very end. Long captions are sometimes truncated, so the mentions aren’t shown without tapping to view the full text.

Image quality suffers

The more times a .jpg file is saved, the more it degrades. This has to do with how image data is stored. Since there’s no way to repost an image—or download it—the only option left for many is to take a screenshot. Screenshots are often well below the native Instagram image resolution (1080 pixels wide), and bring the image one step further toward unusable quality. These grainy, pixelated images can impact the perceived quality of the platform as a leader in visual media over time.

Copyright

The biggest concern I see repeatedly is that Instagram’s copyright ramifications are murky. Instagram reserves the right to use uploaded content in a variety of ways, but they don’t talk much about what rights other users of the platform have to authors’ content. Presumably this means authors can maintain a reasonable expectation of copyright and thus reposting—especially without attribution or consent—is an infringement on those rights.

Many authors are more than happy to allow brands, models, etc. to use the content if credited, because it’s usually beneficial free promotion. Others make a living off of what they produce and would prefer to sell commercial licensure. With great images, some brands stand to make quite a bit of money. High quality images of a product will entice an audience to buy more of it. When an author is directly responsible for producing those images, they deserve to be compensated fairly. At minimum, Instagram could be helping authors receive proper attribution via reposts that maintain a window to the original author’s work.

Where to go from here

As authors, we must continue diligently requesting credit where credit is due. We must also continue thinking about ways to improve the platform because, at the end of the day, it’s our platform as much as anyone else’s. It’s a place for us to say “Hey, I MADE this.”