Instagram Introduces Algorithm to Newsfeed
Instagram have announced they will be following in parent company Facebook’s footsteps and introducing an algorithm to their newsfeed that reorders your photos and videos to show the ones you are likely to care about most at the top.
Up until now the social platform has displayed all posts chronologically, meaning that some you may be interested in are pushed out of sight. Co-founder and chief executive of Instagram Kevin Systrom justified the move by saying that on average people miss 70 percent of the activity on their feeds. “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
With the sheer volume of posts being uploaded everyday it’s easy to see how some of them can get lost in the noise, but by adjusting the priority in which posts are displayed Instagram aims to show the moments they believe you care about the most.
In an update on their blog Instagram said that “the order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”
The goal is to improve the user experience in a way that increases the amount of time spent on the platform, something that will benefit both users and advertisers. Instagram now has more advertisers then Twitter, helped by the Facebook advertising integration, and with reports that last year their interaction rate was down nearly 40% it’s possible that this is a reaction to help bolster those numbers to make sure it doesn’t affect advertising revenue coming in.
But it’s likely that some users will disapprove of this change. When Facebook changed their feed to an algorithm style in 2009 there was an instant reaction, with Facebook groups such as ‘Change Facebook back to normal!!’ garnering massive support. For many the appeal of Instagram lies in its simplicity, and the ability to control what appears in your newsfeed – it’s a hyper-curated aspirational world that reflects what you are interested in, be that interior design, fitspo or puppies.
The problem with an algorithm acting as a gatekeeper over what appears in your newsfeed is that what you ‘logically’ would want to see may not be the best way to decide what is displayed. Chief executive of Upworthy and internet activist Eli Pariser discussed what he calls ‘filter bubbles’ in a TED Talk which describes how important information can be edited out of our online world when an algorithm determines what we see.
For example if Facebook notices that you mostly engage with links about a certain political party, it may remove all information on other parties on the assumption that you are only interested in the party that you ‘Like’ or click on links for. This creates a problem in that people who are already biased towards one side are not exposed to different perspectives. In the past editors have been the gatekeepers of broadcasting, which while not perfect at least means that journalistic ethics is a factor in determining what information we receive.
This change to the newsfeed will be slowly rolled out over the coming months, with Instagram committing to take the time to get it right and respond to feedback in order to provide the best possible experience for its users.
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