Alternatives to Instagram, Meta and TikTok
Plates aims itself to offer a photographic alternative to other social media. It does so in part by not having annoying advertisements, algorithms or videos. Instagram has been turned into a shopping mall full of Reels, and Facebook seems to be well on its way there as well.
And Plates does achieve this. The Home Page shows what I have chosen to follow and only that.
What are Plates?
When I first began using the app, I had guessed that “Plates” might be a fun reference to the glass plates that preceded film in the early days of photography. Perhaps it still is. But it turns out that “Plates” are actually a collection of photos, a sort of photo album that has various privacy, administration and collaboration options.
While you create photo albums on Facebook, this allows you to not only collaborate but subscribe to particular Plates. And given the architecture of Plates, it’s something that you would continue adding photos to, not simply moving on to something else. With the way Plates is designed, it feels more organizational and intuitive as well.
Clicking the “+” sign next to “Create a new Plate” results in creating a new menu. It first prompts you to select a photo that serves as the header photo, then offers various options. The app is extremely easy to use and is streamlined so that no matter what you are doing, it doesn’t require many steps.
The Home Page offers a chronologically-ordered feed that is personalized, perhaps somewhat like Vero offers. Where Plates differs from Vero, and for that matter, Instagram and other apps is that if you follow a person, you tend to see their content one at a time regardless of what they post. Also, there is no place for collaboration. With Plates, each photo belongs to a Plate, or themed album, providing greater context.
What I like about it is that users can subscribe to a particular Plate, allowing them to laser-focus in on their interests even more.
But I also like the ability to organize the photos with different themes. This keeps everything organized and with themes.
Instagram somewhat possesses that specifically-curated feel to a certain extent if we chose to follow someone with carefully curated content. The ability to follow specific hashtags also helps. This more carefully curated quality, however, has been obliterated by the deluge of Reels, Stories, advertisements, and algorithms determining what it thinks we might like. For some reason, Instagram now shows me lots of exercise videos. I hope this isn’t a hint about my fitness level.
Plates allows you to add other photographers as co-curators to Plates. This could be great if you have several people who have similar interests or went on a trip together.
Although I like this feature, I must confess that I have not done this on Plates. And there’s a reason for this.
Plates doesn’t have many users
With many alternatives to the large social media juggernauts, there’s not a lot of people using most of the alternative apps. Having more people is often what makes it more fun.
At least, to a point.
It seems that when an app becomes extremely popular, it seems like it is commandeered from its original intent of making connections. The app’s developers might decide to monetize it through selling information, advertising, and promoting. The people using it start becoming obsessed with popularity, spreading their agendas or misinformation, or trolling.
For now, Plates has a relatively small number of users. I don’t personally know anyone who uses Plates right now.
When I search on night photography, I frequently see the same creators. My experience is extremely pleasant but limited. This isn’t a fault of the app’s design, of course, just that most people either put up with Meta’s social media juggernauts or have fled to numerous other apps. Or perhaps fled from all of it altogether.
Navigation of the app is straightforward.
If I click on a photo inside a Plate, I am able to scroll up or down to see the other photos in the Plate.
A curious aspect is that if someone comments on one of my photos, I can comment below, but there is no “reply” function.
Quality of photos
The photos look good. They don’t appear to have been mangled by the uploading process, quite unlike Facebook. As you would expect from a phone app, photos with portrait orientation view best. However, the app does very well at automatically displaying photos with landscape orientation all the way to the sides with minimal space between photos. In other words, the app looks great.
Plates is enjoyable. So far, the things I enjoy about it the most are the organizational element of Plates and how I can subscribe to them, the ease of use, and the quality of the photos. And I must say, I thoroughly enjoy not having Reels, short videos, invasive browsing histories, or constant advertisements. No spam and no misinformation campaigns either. I only wish there were more people to share in this experience.
I’ve emailed a bit with Sarthak Mishra, the founder of Plates, who has these following last words: “Social has evolved a lot since it became popular a couple of decades back. It’s not necessary that you might be interested in everything that a person you follow might post. Plates gives users a chance to have a feed of posts that is exactly according to their liking.”