Instagram will soon start showing you photos out of chronological order - a huge change to the photo-focused social network.
Instead, like posts you see on Facebook, posts displayed will be based on an algorithm; rather, Instagram will show you the photos it thinks you'll find most interesting.
As my colleague Alex Heath noted, this is the most radical change Instagram has gone through since it was founded in 2010.
Facebook introduced an algorithmic News Feed in 2009, and the company uses many different factors to determine which posts to show you when you login. Few outside of Facebook know exactly how it works.
Yet, despite being owned by Facebook, an Instagram spokesperson shared with us some of the signals the company will use to determine which pictures will go to the top of your feed.
The spokesman emphasized that it won't be a popularity contest, and, of course, the metrics used could change as Instagram continues to test the algorithmic timeline over the next few months.
But for now, the spokesman said, if you're one of the few people the new feed is being tested on, there are dozens of signals that go into determining which photos you see when you open up the app.
Some of those are:
- The relationship between you and the person who (or company that) posted the photo:
- If you usually like a lot of photos from a certain account, or regularly leave a comment, then Instagram knows you have a relationship with that poster, and, as a result, will likely want to see photos from that account.
- Since Instagram has for years been chronologically based, the company will closely consider when the photo was posted to determine where it shows up in your feed. The spokesman said the company wants to make sure that it's still showing you timely posts.
- Likes and comments:
- Although the Instagram spokesperson said that the new feed will not be a popularity contest, likes and comments will certainly come into play. But just because you follow Taylor Swift, and her posts repeatedly earn more than 2 million likes, doesn't mean that she'll always be at the top of your feed.
- Direct shares:
- Instagram will look at what posts you have shared with others, and who those other people are. Since you're engaging with the photo, it's a sign that you're interested in that person or company, which will affect how Instagram places future photos from the account in your feed.
- Profile searches:
- If you search for a certain athlete, like LeBron James, or even a friend, then Instagram has another signal that you're likely interested in posts from that person or company.
There are many other signals that Instagram will use, but the company isn't will to get specific about them right now, if ever.
Even though Instagram is owned by Facebook, the company said that (for now) your behavior on Facebook won't go into determining the order that photos appear in your feed. (It does, however, use what you do both on and off of Facebook to better target ads to you.)
An Instagram rep also said that right now it's not using image recognition, so it won't know the contents of the photos you engage with. Don't be surprised, though, if this changes in the future - just look at how good Google has gotten at image recognition for an idea of the next steps in algorithmic social media.