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Meta cracks down on ad-free Instagram client a day after it launched

OG APP

A third-party Instagram app, called “The OG App,” which promised an ad-free feed more like the original Instagram experience, has been pulled from Apple’s App Store just one day after it officially launched. It’s not clear if Apple pulled the app at the request of Meta, but the social network confirmed it had taken “enforcement actions” against the service.

“This app violates our policies and we’re taking all appropriate enforcement actions,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what those actions were, or if it had been in contact with Apple, but pointed to a blog post outlining Meta’s policies barring clone sites.

“A clone site is a third-party site that duplicates, in whole or in part, the content of an existing site,” Meta explains. On Twitter, the developers of The OG App said their entire team had been permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram as a result of their ties to the service.

"Users deserve the right to control what they consume, and OG will continue to defend and fight for that right," Hardik Patil, one of the app's founder's told Engadget. He said he had received no direct communication from Meta.

The OG App had been in the works for more than a year, according to TechCrunch, which reported its initial launch. The app’s founders told the publication they wanted to provide a “cleaner” version of Instagram without advertising. The app featured customizable feeds without Reels, suggested posts and other newer features that have at times been controversial among longtime Instagram users. The Android version of the app is currently still available.

Meta’s policies have long barred third-party Instagram clients, and in recent years the company has filed a number of lawsuits against developers who break its rules, including those barring clone sites. At the same time, the company has also been accused of using those same policies to shut down legitimate researchers’ attempts to study the platform.

However, in this case, it seems the creators of the OG App were clearly breaking Instagram’s policies. The company doesn’t offer a public API for developers to build their own versions of Instagram, and on Twitter, The OG App said they had to “reverse engineer” the Android API. The app also raised privacy concerns about how the developers were protecting users’ account information.

Despite this, the app had already gained a lot of fans due to its more simplified — and ad-free — experience. Instagram has also been dealing with a backlash against its aggressive pushing of Reels and recommended content. The OG App said it had racked up more than 10,000 downloads before its removal from the App Store “because we listened to them and built what they wanted.”

Update 9/29 10 AM PT: Apple confirmed to Engadget that the app had been removed from its store, and pointed to the company's App Store guidelines, which prohibit developers from using third-party services without authorization. The company further said The OG App's unsanctioned use of Instagram posed a security risk.