Instagram is stealing the worst thing about YouTube — unskipable ads

Instagram app on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Instagram is testing a new controversial feature that makes it impossible for users to skip certain advertisements on their feeds. When encountered, these ads display a timer and prevent users from scrolling past until the full time has elapsed, similar to how ads work on YouTube.

The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it's testing unskippable ads after screenshots of the feature began circulating on Reddit and X (formerly Twitter) this week. Users spotted the new feature while scrolling through stories and posts, recognizable by the "Ad break" icon that Instagram displays at the bottom, along with a countdown timer for when you can start scrolling again. If you tap the "Ad break" icon to learn more, a message pops up that reads: "Ad breaks are a new way of seeing ads on Instagram. Sometimes, you may need to view an ad before you can keep browsing."

Since Instagram is still in the testing phase, it remains unclear whether it will eventually roll out ad breaks for all users. "We're always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers," a Meta company spokesperson told TechCrunch. As we test and learn, we will provide updates should this test result in any formal product changes."

Given that Instagram already shows sponsored posts and ads sandwiched between content from the accounts users follow, many considered this to be a step too far. Several user complaints have already gone viral on social media about how these unskippable ads disrupt the viewing experience. If Instagram rolls Ad breaks out globally, there's likely to be an even more significant outcry. 

While other platforms like TikTok have ads slotted between videos, users can scroll past them. YouTube's TikTok rival, Shorts, also lets users skip ads, though the platform does display unskippable ads in long-form videos for users who don't pay for YouTube Premium. Chances are Instagram is trying to follow YouTube's example to appeal to advertisers who aren't necessarily pleased with Instagram, letting users easily miss their ads.  

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Alyse Stanley
News Editor

Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.