On Saturday, Instagram started rolling out the ability to see and respond to direct messages in a browser instead of having to open the app. And while this might be nice change for influencers and Instaholics, I can’t help but think this does nothing to address the otherwise atrocious experience you get when using Instagram on desktop.
For an app run by one of the richest companies on the planet (Facebook) with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, the limited functionality you get from Instagram on the desktop feels like a joke. Sure, you can like posts, type out comments, and, now, respond to DMs, but if you’re not using the app, the core functionality of Instagram on the web/desktop is broken.
Without the mobile app, you can’t upload photos or videos (aside from IGTV) without using third-party software (which may require you to have a business account), or using some developer tricks to fool Instagram into thinking that your desktop browser is actually a mobile app. And if you do the latter, while you can upload a photo or video, most of Instagram’s usual editing tools are gone, which means you can’t adjust things like contrast or sharpness, and even doing simple stuff like cropping pics is a pain in the arse.
This is an especially annoying problem for people who take pictures using something other than a smartphone. A typical non-smartphone photo editing process usually involves snapping a pic with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, importing that photo into Lightroom or Photoshop on a computer, and then using the much more powerful tools available on desktop to edit photos there.
Unfortunately, when you’re done, if you want to post something to Instagram, you either have to resort to the workarounds listed above or send the photo to a mobile device so you can post it. This convoluted system discourages people from uploading high-quality content, which seems like the exact opposite of what a good visual-focused social media app should do.
And while you can watch stories on Instagram in a browser, you can’t create them, which pretty much turns Instagram on desktop into a less-interactive version of Pinterest. Unfortunately, things get even worse from there.
Let’s say you open up a link to a video on Instagram, like the one above, in a desktop browser. OK, fine, you can press play and watch the video. But where is the slider for adjusting the volume? Not available, which means your speakers are going to blast whatever background music is going on at 100 per cent, whether you like it or not. And if you want to skip ahead and get to the action, that’s not an option, either, as videos in Instagram don’t have a timeline that you can use to scrub back and forth. You’ll need another browser extension for that. (This is also an issue in the mobile app.)
But perhaps the biggest fuck you is that when using Instagram in a browser, if you visit someone’s feed without logging in, after just a few seconds of scrolling, Instagram will lock the page, preventing you seeing any other pictures until you sign in. What good is a photo-sharing service that actively blocks you from simply looking at pictures?
What makes things even more infuriating is that most of these issues have existed for years. Instagram isn’t new anymore; it has a team of thousands of developers and engineers that could be working to fix address complaints like these. For some reason, it seems like Facebook simply doesn’t care—but it should, because with apps like TikTok muscling their way onto the scene, the competition for users’ attention is getting steeper.
Instagram on desktop sucks, and adding the ability to respond to DMs is a painful reminder of how much work needs to be done to make it even a halfway-decent experience.