Instagram's feed is about to completely change. But there's no reason to panic, or actually do anything at all.
The site has announced that it will introduce an “algorithmic timeline” rather than sorting its posts chronologically.
Instagram announced the change weeks ago, but a rumour just caught on that it was about to be turned on. That doesn't appear to be true, but it's meant that a lot of people have got excited and annoyed about the new feature.
What is an algorithmic timeline?
It decides what order to show posts in based on a range of criteria, rather than just displaying them chronologically. Data about how you use the app will be plugged into the algorithm and then used to order the posts.
The company has said that the algorithm will take a range of different information in when it's making its decisions.
“The ordered feed will take into account a number of signals such as likes, comments and searches, as well as the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, the timeliness of the posts, and your relationship to the person posting,” a spokesperson said.
If you'd like a taste of what it might look like ― and whether it will work ― head to the explore tab by clicking on the magnifying glass button in the app. That uses much of the same data to pick out things from people you don't follow.
When will the feature get added?
Instagram hasn't said, exactly. It isn't “tomorrow”, as the posts that are being shared on the app claim.
But it's made clear that first there'll be a period of testing, while it works out how exactly the algorithm should work. Those that are selected will probably know about it.
That'll be followed by the proper launch. There'll be more news before that happens, the company said.
Why are people asking their followers to turn on mobile notifications?
Supposedly because the new timeline will make it harder to see posts from people you like. The posts say that since that is about to happen, the only way to make sure you see updates from a person is to have your phone notify you every time you post.
But that's just plain wrong: the algorithmic feed will or at least should pick out the people you like posts from most, and show them to you. You'll almost certainly miss fewer posts from your favourite accounts, not more.
Mobile notifications do make sure that a person's posts get seen, though, even if they can be annoying. And that's why the posts are circulating ― presumably just using the changes as a way to frighten people into turning them on.
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