Instagram’s Chronological Feed is Back

January 12, 2022 - 6 minutes read


From tweaking the way users
interact with content, to allowing users to upload videos of up to 60 seconds on their Stories (up from the previous 15 seconds), Instagram appears to be in all-out adjustment mode. For instance, just last month Instagram announced that it’s working on a new feed option where users can see posts from people they follow in chronological order rather than showing posts based on AI-inferred interests. 

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If you’re a longtime Instagram user then you likely know that Instagram feeds used to only exist chronologically. That all changed in 2016 when Instagram switched to an algorithm-based feed to create an optimized content delivery system for users. This algorithm, however, has been a sore subject within the Instagram community and has sparked immense criticism surrounding the social media platform.

In fact, Instagram users have created such a commotion around the issue that during a Senate subcommittee hearing in December, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, promised the chronological feed would make a comeback due to its profound popularity among users. And, as promised by Mosseri, Instagram is now working on new feed options that are being tested in three different versions:

Home 

The “Home” feed is one that active users will be familiar with as it’s how Instagram organizes their feed currently. With help from an AI-based algorithm, the “Home” option monitors past activity and suggests new posts for users based off of this data. 

Now, as we discussed briefly, this is the same algorithm that has created an ongoing uproar by the Instagram faithful. So, going forward, this option will allow users to view more posts from users and accounts they don’t currently follow, but they won’t be forced to use this option as there will be others to choose from. 

Following


The second option is the “Following” feed, where users can choose to display posts from the accounts that they follow in a chronological order – the option that Instagram users have been begging for. In other words, the “Following” option is the full-fledged Instagram experience, where content is presented in an organized, chronological manner. 

Favorites

The final option is the all-new “Favorites” feed, where Instagram users will be able to see posts from accounts that they mark with a star. With this option, users are able to limit the number of posts they see on their personalized feed. In other words, the new “Favorites” feed will be populated with content from the accounts that a user chooses (i.e., friends, family, and/or certain creators).

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: A Lesson for Developers 

So, why is Instagram reverting back to a chronological feed? Well, a better question may be to ask why they broke away from the chronological option in the first place? As we discussed previously, Instagram parted ways with chronological order in favor of an AI-powered predictive algorithm that was intended to study users’ interactions with the app and display results based on this data. In essence, Instagram was basing user feeds on things they’ve viewed in the past, a common AI practice in the ecommerce space. 

However, Mosseri and Instagram recognized that with this new algorithm there was a rapid decline in the number of people checking their feeds regularly, suggesting that the AI algorithm was not showing users what they wanted to see. So, Instagram is choosing to revert back to the old chronological way as this feed option will allow users to customize the app to their liking, in turn generating higher engagement with the app. 

The fact of the matter is that Instagram had a feed option that users enjoyed as it was accurate, quick, and simple, and yet the company opted to “fix” that option and rely on an algorithm that ultimately failed. In other words, the chronological option should have never gone away in the first place. Instagram is an app designed for users to browse and discover things they like, and relying on an algorithm to choose these things for users is simply counterintuitive. 

Nevertheless, Instagram is finally getting it right (again). These new feed options will give users the freedom to virtually hand-pick their own content in descending order as they scroll down from the top of the app. And, while the new options are still in the testing phase, it is suspected that these options will be rolled out to select users soon and the global rollout will be completed within the first half of 2022.

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