Instagram, the eighth-most popular app in America, is about to adopt its biggest change in almost three years—and perhaps ever.
Starting this month, the app will test displaying photos and videos in its main feed out of “reverse chronological” order (that is, “newest first”). Instead, like its parent-company Facebook, it will display them in order of importance, an algorithm determining the photos you are most likely to appreciate.
“You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds,” writes Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, in a blog post announcing the change. “This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.”
He finished that thought in a New York Times interview announcing the change: “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
As technology companies have come to rely more and more on “engagement” as a defining metric, they’ve reoriented their central feeds as Instagram has here. Facebook was the first major social network to embark on this path when it pioneered the News Feed product seven years ago. Even Twitter, which for many years thrived on its chronological, of-the-moment feel, is easing into an algorithmic feed in the hopes of attracting new users.