Instagram to Slowly Introduce New Algorithm-Based Newsfeed

Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is on the verge of changing its newsfeed. But, unlike Facebook, Instagram plans to roll out its changes slowly, as a series of small tests to a single-digit percentage of user groups. The new feed will be algorithm-based and personalized, much like that found at its parent company Facebook. The result would be a shift away from reverse chronology list to the photos/videos Instagram thinks you will most want to see from among those you follow.

The New York Times notes that, when Facebook changed its newsfeed in 2009, it sparked a huge pushback from irate users. Last month, Twitter also switched its feed to place older, popular tweets at the top of the user’s feed if he or she had been away from the service for a while.

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Instagram’s algorithm will rely on machine-learning technology and other “signals” to determine “the likelihood a person will be interested in the content, the timeliness of the posts and the relationship between the two users,” for posts that will retain the date stamp of when they took place.

Instagram co-founder and chief executive Kevin Systrom points out that, “on average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.” “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible,” he said.

Instagram and its fellow feed-based services are switching up the newsfeed for two basic reasons. One is the massive amount of data the services now deal with. Instagram draws 400 million regular visitors (in comparison, Facebook has 1.59 billion monthly users) and, says NYT, has to figure out a better way to “deal with the sheer amount of content flowing through the networks on a minute-by-minute basis.” Second, feed-based networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter also need to refresh themselves as they face competition from newcomers like Snapchat and China’s WeChat.

If Instagram fans will be irritated by the changing newsfeed remains to be seen. But Instagram’s slower, staged rollout is less likely to create the revolt Facebook faced in 2009. One thing that won’t change is Instagram’s advertising products, which “already use and rely on similar targeting principles to serve ads to users.”

Related:
Instagram Users Rebel Against Plans to Reorganize Feed, Variety, 3/16/16