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One Big Thing: Instagram's Future

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Instagram founders' leaving Facebook and the importance of cofounders. This week, I want to talk about what I hope Facebook does now that Instagram is fully under its umbrella. In short, I hope the answer is "not much."

First and foremost, Facebook should resist the temptation to try to coax Instagram users to move to Facebook. Instagram has proven itself as a strong stand-alone platform - and one that can make money at that. A big part of that is Facebook's fantastic ad network, which is pretty inarguably Facebook's strongest business asset.

Second, keep Instgram simple. With the IG TV launch, it's clear that Instagram is becoming more complicated. There's something to be said for a certain level of feature-addition, but there is also such a thing as too much. Instagram's core appeal is ease-of-adoption, it's always been easy to use right out of the box. The Facebook app is getting to be overloaded, and Facebook on desktop is borderline out-of-control. The minute this happens to Instagram, it's done.

Finally (for now), understand the evolution of social media. Facebook is just a decade old, but it's the social media grandparent. The thing is, that's fine! It has a huge cash base and has enjoyed a decade of growth and profitability. Facebook needs to understand that social media is changing, and a lot of that has been driven by one of its core properties - use it.

Maybe Facebook is becoming "old hat." Even if that's the case, that doesn't mean it has to bow out. It needs to evolve. Look at Microsoft now compared to ten years ago. It's a very very different company, and a great example for Facebook to follow.

So the less Facebook does to Facebook-ify Instagram, the better, as TechCrunch's Josh Constine (@JoshConstine) shows in his deep dive into this topic. What do you think? Let me know at or tweet me, @sree #sreenewsletter

- Sree (writing this week from NYC after spending Saturday in Boston for the Boston Book Festival, where I spoke on a panel with neuroscientists and others about the ills of social, on a panel called "Twitter Ate My Brain." Next Sunday, I'll share what I Iearned and one critical aspect of social media I wish I'd talked about, but didn't). 

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👩🏽‍💻 Algorithms, machine learning, and AI are endlessly touted as at least part of the solution to our fake news- and misinformation-laden world, but the reality is that they just aren't quite there yet. The smart folks at MIT are hard at work on getting it right. Read Adam Conner-Simons @ MIT

🗞 Reporting on the Trump organization's shady business and political ties with even shadier Russian oligarchs and operatives is no easy task. As Franklin Foer (@FranklinFoer) recounts here, it can also be excruciating for the journalists and editors involved. 
Read it @ The Atlantic

🗳 The elections in Brazil were seen as a sort of dry run for Facebook ahead of the US midterms and the presidential election in 2020. If this what we have to look forward to in November (and subsequent Novembers), we should all be worried. Read Ryan Broderick & Alexandre Orrico @ Buzzfeed

➡️ When Facebook goes down, people read the news. According to numbers published by Chartbeat, when Facebook went down in August, direct traffic to news sites shot up almost instantly. Read Hanna Kozlowska @ Quartz

🏎 Journalism Twitter is always an interesting place. Great stories, tons of insight, and of course <insert changing-jobs-congrats-Twitter joke here>. But, political narratives move at break-neck speed on the platform, and it's not for the better. The thing is, it's probably because of too much Twitter. Read Mathew Ingram @ CJR
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The Taylor Swift Effect 🎤

Taylor Swift is one of the most famous people in the world. She's largely stayed on the sidelines with regard to her politics, but that all changed with an Instagram post that endorsed Democrats in her home state of Tennessee. As I've noted, I'm not of the mind that celebrities should "stay in their lanes" regarding politics - quite the opposite, in fact. Within 24 hours of her post, registered more voters than it had in all of August. As of Friday, they've registered 364,000 voters - 2/3 of whom are under 30 - since the post. In Tennessee specifically, her post will likely mean thousands of new voters on the rolls. If that's not a good thing, I don't know what is. Read more here from Claudia Rosenbaum & Michael Blackmon

Data Points 🎖

US service members have been fighting in Afghanistan for 17 years. Did you know that we still have 15,000 active duty military there? If you did, kudos - but most don't. As Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) writes, this is largely because we have a sort of rolling 1% (or less) of the population that signs up for the military. She quotes Senator Tammy Duckworth - herself a combat veteran - and it really hits home: “We’ve had more discussions about people kneeling during the national anthem than we have about when the war in Afghanistan is going to end.” Read more here.

Listen to Something 🎧

I had a life-changing experience in Kenya earlier this year when we visited UNHCR-run refugee settlements in Kakuma, on the South Sudan border. The work the UNHCR (@refugees) staff does in these camps is truly something to behold, and the difficulties the refugees face goes beyond the descriptive power of the written or spoken word. Now, the UNHCR folks, led by communications chief Melissa Fleming,  have started a podcast to capture these voices, and trust me when I say that the "Awake at Night" podcast will get to you. Listen to the podcast here.

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More than 90% of the world's data has appeared in the past two years. We've already seen both the positives and negatives from our newly-connected age - but what comes next? 

Our Best Today, Our Better Tomorrow

Sunday Readalong: Every Sunday morning at 8:30 am ET/12:30 pm GMT, I read and critique the print edition of the NYT on FB Live. You can join us live or via recording any time at This week, my guest is Betsy Buchalter Adler, a retired philanthropy lawyer and passionate advocate for civil society sector. Last Sunday, NYT reporter Katie Rosman (@katierosman) invited me into her home as we had a wonderful conversation that's still worth watching: As always, thanks to Neil Parekh for coproducing these sessions. 

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