Why Instagram’s Big Change Is a Good Thing for Users

3 minute read
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Change is coming to Instagram.

Since inception, the massively popular photo-sharing app served up users’ friends’ images in chronological order. But Instagram will soon begin using an algorithm to predict which photos its users are mostly likely to like. Those pictures will then appear higher in their feeds. (The system doesn’t have a release date but is being selectively tested.)

This may sounds like relatively a minor shift, but many diehard Instagram users are upset by the idea. Emotions, as they are wont to do online, range from annoyance to outrage:

Some prolific Instagrammers are going so far as to ask their followers to be notified every time they upload a new image:

Will the change actually hurt Instagram? Probably not. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network (and Instagram’s owner since 2012), has long used an algorithm to serve up content it thinks users will be more interested in. Changes to Facebook’s newsfeed—what users see when they log in—used to elicit similarly strong objections but, lately, fewer seem to mind. And the change hasn’t dinged Facebook’s growth—a billion people check the site every day.

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Not that Facebook’s algorithmic feed hasn’t yielded mixed results. On one hand, it gave the social network a sense of order missing from rivals like Twitter. On the other, there’s often a nagging sense that the algorithm has missed something, leaving you in the dark on the updates you really want. But you would be hard pressed to find a Facebook user who longs for the days when the network was more chronological.

The same will be true of Instagram’s update. Some of the app’s 400 million users will undoubtedly be annoyed by the “new Instagram.” But it’s likely they will accept the shift, if begrudgingly. There is just too much good content on the platform to give up on it. Instagram’s change is still in what spokesperson Gabe Madway characterized as a “testing period.” The company will not offer an opt-out during that period, which he added will last “weeks, or even months” before it’s rolled out more widely.

Other users, myself included, will welcome the new Instagram. Instagram is already my favorite social network because it’s a calming babbling brook compared to Twitter’s raging rapids. But I don’t check my feed more than a couple of times a day on average. Instagram’s claim that the average user misses 70 percent of their friends’ photos rings true to me. That’s unfortunate. I would rather see all of my friends’ posts, even if out of order, rather than miss them entirely. That’s what the site’s algorithm promises.

I suspect many other Instagram users feel the same—even if they’re not being quite as loud about the change.

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