Instagram has been a friend to most of us at some point or another, and with 400 million active users, it still is. It’s also been that friend that’s remained straightforward, unassuming, and never thought it knew better than you. This is somewhat in stark contrast to its parent company, Facebook, that has been using an algorithmic feed for some time now that, like a dominating politician, determines what it thinks will be good for you, or what you’ll like based on popularity and other cues.
Twitter also decided to go that route but the backlash was so great, and so fierce and quick, with hashtags #RIPTwitter flooding the internets that they had to retreat somewhat and only showed what it felt users wanted to see at the very top of the timeline, and then allowed users to choose if they wanted to go whole-hog. Facebook, on the other hand, like a parent who knows they know better than their child didn’t back down, and the algorithm is a part of life for the billion that continue to use it.
So what does this spell for Instagram? Exactly how abrasive will people be about the son becoming like the father? Very, I suspect, and if the current tweets and posts are any indication, ‘very’ hardly begins to cut it, and the feature hasn’t even rolled out yet.
Just as a quick re-visit to the thought behind this move, it pays to understand that with the absolute firehose of data as posts that are constantly being produced and shared, it’s almost impossible to see it all, much less in a timely manner. And without the algorithm, you’d either have to search for the people whose updates you want to see, or deal with seeing your co-workers pre-teen rant versus the post your bestie just shared of their her new baby.
Instagram’s people have even stated that 70% of posts are missed in anyone’s Instagram feed, and Kevin Systrom, co-founder, says, “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
*Worth noting is that Instagram’s interaction seems to have fallen sharply last year to the tune of 40% by some reports. This move is likely in part a response to that.
This may be more of a problem for those who use Instagram as a business, but for everyone else, I’m not so sure. I’m urged to recall (and paraphrase) something the late-great Steve Jobs said, that people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true, and not only that but in this age of information, even if we knew what we wanted, we may be incapable of actually retrieving and seeing it. Technology can help.
Since Windows ’95 and the advent of AOL we, as the Internet generation, have become accustomed to start-up pages, which were essentially just like the front page of the newspapers that came before it – amalgamations of the more significant information pieces within a news selection. The front page of a newspaper shows the most important and relevant, but the rest of the news is still there just a few flips away. Well, newsfeeds and Instagram’s feed are very much the same thing. Except it’s not, because it’s better.
Newspapers and start pages were general and the same for everyone, but the algorithms used now are going to be very, very sophisticated, and able to tailor to you as an individual the way the papers and AOL could only dream of.
[REWIND: INSTAGRAM AND THE FUTURE OF EDITORIALS]
There will no doubt be an outcry from many, but take a minute to step back to see if you should be joining the throngs. I won’t be.