Instagram has jumped on the re-sorted-feed fad along with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Stated on Instagram’s blog posted March 15th, “your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.” An algorithm (likely using a classifier) will sort the order of the feed. This post makes the claim that users “miss on average 70 percent of their feeds.”

My initial reaction:

  • What if the average user chooses to miss older posts by only viewing most recent?
  • Does this change address a problem or an observation?
  • Is it just about increasing ad views?

I follow what I like to see most, such as friends and favorite photographers, and use search and hashtags to see others. I see very nearly all of my feed, unless many days have gone by and I’m only interested in the recent posts. I can always go look at their pages to see all of their posts.

In the past two weeks I have found my freind’s series of photos getting scattered about out of sequence. Photos by my favorite photographers may get buried perhaps due to that I only comment or like photos by friends. Even if I interact less, I still care about art by pros and recent updates from International Space Station (ISS). Besides, my feed update appears mostly shuffled. Whatever comes first doesn’t seem consistent, and multiple photos by same user on same subject ends up shuffled with the others and out of order.

This brings up four points:

  1. A series works better in order.
  2. Order adds context.
  3. Immediacy matters to some users.
  4. Users interact in different ways.

In a reverse-chronological sequence, one only needs to glance at a handful of the time stamps to approximate relative post times for the others. The order of posts adds context, especially when related to a topic or in response to other posts. A photo series stands out that otherwise might become hidden.

I left feedback using the Instagram app about wanting to see recent posts first.

Handling a busy feed

On Twitter, lists allow a user to categorize or limit content to smaller feeds. Lists have been around for years, and I find it very handy for keeping up with users in context of work, friends, or by topic. Of course, searching by hashtag works well on both Twitter and Instagram. A user could choose to limit main feed (timeline) by only following those most interested in, and take advantage of hashtags and lists for others.

Other apps?

If Instagram doesn’t provide a reverse-chronological sort option, one might be inclined to create an app to do just that. The problem is that Instagram doesn’t allow other apps to offer similar functionality including view options or improved user experiences.

Add something unique to the community. Don’t use the Instagram APIs to replicate or attempt to replace the functionality or essential user experiences of or any of Instagram’s apps.

About ad views

A shuffled feed means that if your friend just posted a new photo you want to see, you might need to do more scrolling to find it and see more ads. Checking for updates more often leads to a feed more closely in chronological order, and more ad views.

Pleasing advertisers is most likely the real goal, but unhappy users could mean lower ad revenue.

Suggestions for Instagram

  • Make top picks an option or another feed.
  • Implement lists or a single list of favorites.