by Melissa Wilson
2016 was the year of virtual cat and mouse amongst major social media players. Platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook appropriated, raced and downright copied features from each other in a further push towards instant, live and on-demand video content. The year provided the most competitive market yet for developers vying for the increasingly short attention span of users. In 2016 we shared more, became more connected and more entertained.
After their announcement in late 2015, Facebook rolled out their ‘reactions’ feature globally. Reactions allow users to express ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ reactions alongside the original ‘like’ feature. We won’t hold our breaths for a ‘dislike’ button.
Twitter releases ‘improved Timeline’
Twitter joined the likes of Facebook in early 2016 by releasing their ‘improved timeline’. The algorithm based feature aims to show users more of what they’re likely to care about.
Instagram enables multiple accounts
Social media managers the world over rejoiced in unison on February 8 when Instagram rolled out its multiple account feature. Gone were the days of logging in and out of accounts with the app instead allowing users to access and flick between an earth-shattering five accounts at a time.
Snapchat offers customisable geofilters
Users fell in love with geofilters in 2015 and in February Snapchat released customisable event based geofilters. For a small fee, any person with an account can create their own geofilter for a holiday or event and assign it to a specific location. Given that the platform is minimal on ads, this was seen as a creative and tactful way for the company to generate revenue from users.
In early 2016, Instagram announced they were replacing their reverse chronological style feed in favour of one dictated by an algorithm. Despite being designed to show users more content ‘they care about most’, outcry amongst dedicated users ensued, alongside a widespread request to ‘turn on notifications’.
Longer video for Instagram
At the end of March, Instagram announced it was beginning to roll out 60-second video capability. A huge jump from their previous 15-second limit, they also reintroduced the ability for iOS users to make videos out of multiple clips from their camera roll.
Facebook launches Instant Articles
In an effort to make the user experience faster and more seamless, Facebook released Instant Articles. Launching on mobile, the feature allows content to be published natively to Facebook resulting in faster load times, lessened abandonment rates, video auto-play and tap-to-zoom image galleries.
Facebook Live goes …live
Facebook Live was made available to all users in April. Designed to connect people, pages and public figures to their audience in real time, Facebook Live signalled a new era in connectedness through social media.
New Instagram look and feel
Instagram revealed their new logo and app appearance in May. While the new bright gradient style app logo left some scratching their heads, the improved app layout and design was well received by users.
Facebook 360 photo
Panorama photos were given a new life when Facebook released their 360 feature in June. Users can now simply upload a panorama photo taken on their smartphone, which is automatically transformed into a fully immersive photo on the app.
Instagram introduces ‘see translation’ tool
Presumably in a bid to further the connectedness of people using the app across the world, Instagram took after Facebook in releasing an in built language translation tool for captions, comments and profile bios.
Pokémon GO released
The virtual reality game instantly developed a cult following its release in July. The app was applauded for its unique reliance on varied geographical locations to catch Pokémon and battle at gyms, therefore requiring players to physically move around in order to play the game.
Instagram introduces ‘stories’ feature
The copycat moment of the year goes to Instagram and their ‘stories’ feature. ‘Stories’ were presumably an effort to offer something for everyone and maintain Instagram’s edge over its competition. The bold move and its subsequent backlash were a secondary concern for team Instagram, with the feature being embraced amongst users.
Facebook gets around ad blocking
Those using desktop ad-blocking plugins may have noticed a different newsfeed in August as Facebook navigated around ad-blocking technology. The platform instead promised to provide users with better, more relevant ads. The never-ending saga doesn’t stop there however, with ad-blockers hitting back with loopholes only a few days later.
Instagram introduces zoom
Gone are the days when you would show your mum a photo of your crush on Instagram and she double taps to zoom in on their pearly whites resulting in you ‘liking’ a photo of them on holidays in South America 134 weeks ago. Just us? Well, Instagram introduced a zoom function, what more is there to say?
Twitter introduces ‘quality’ filter
Twitter’s ‘quality’ filter gave users more control than ever over the content they see on their feed. Using artificial intelligence technology to detect things like automated content and duplicate tweets, turning on the filter allows users to see more of the content they care about.
Messenger Introduces ‘Messenger Day’ Feature
Just a month after Instagram released their Snapchat inspired ‘stories’, Facebook’s sister app Messenger came out with ‘Messenger Day’. It remains to be seen whether the feature has sparked much more than a few mildly amusing Reddit threads.
Twitter increases character limit
Well, sort of. After 10 long years, users felt liberated in September when Twitter removed usernames, photos, GIFs and videos from counting towards the precious 140-character limit.
Twitter opens up ‘moments’ to all users
Offering its own take on instant, event / occasion based content, Twitter introduced ‘moments’ in October, allowing users to subscribe to content around a certain topic, sporting or news event while it is current and automatically disengaging them once it’s over.
Censoring Instagram comments
Giving users power to hide what they don’t want to see, Instagram rolled out the feature that automatically hides inappropriate comments. Simply navigate to the settings section of the app and you can list the keywords that aren’t welcome on your page. Instagram will then automatically hide the comments that contain these words. Viola!
Facebook launched Marketplace
Billions of buy and sell arrangements occur across Facebook every year, prompting Facebook to launch its very own Marketplace feature in October. Its integration with Facebook messenger made it easier than ever to haggle and arrange drop off or pick up points for purchases in your local area.
Twitter kills off Vine
Arguably the biggest social media news of 2016, Vine announced in October that it will be closing down. Twitter purchased the micro video-sharing platform in 2012 for a cool 30 million and since then many other popular apps have incorporated similar features, rendering it nearly irrelevant in 2016.
Built in Boomerang and @ for Instagram stories
In an effort to further enrich their stories feature, Instagram incorporated its boomerang app feature natively within Stories. Instagram also extended its ‘@’ feature to stories, allowing users to tag other accounts directly into their instant videos and photos.
Instagram save posts feature
Many people use Instagram to gather ideas and inspiration, but with no proper way to save or file the things you see, it’s difficult to keep track of the things you love. Enter: the save feature. Users can now save posts straight from their feed, which are stored in a ‘saved’ section on their profile. And the best part? Your saved content is all kept totally private from your followers.
Instagram releases Live Stories
Users may start noticing a ‘live’ videos in Stories feed this December. Unlike Facebook Live, Instagram live videos disappear after the broadcast has ended, which means you have to tune in or miss out!