Instagram is launching an initial test of in-stream options without an algorithm, in reverse chronological feed

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

After announcing the return of his reverse chronological posts without algorithms late last year, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri today shared an overview of how his new options on this front will work.

Honestly, the way he says ‘it’s important to me …’ drives me a little crazy.

As you can see in the video, Instagram wants to add two different chronological feed options, to ‘Favorites’, which would allow you to see a list of accounts based on those you add to your ‘Favorites’ and ‘Following’ lists, which will show the accounts you follow, without further recommendation, in reverse order on the timeline.

The latter is especially important because as Mosseri notes, your algorithmically defined ‘Home’ feed will contain ‘more and more recommendations over time’ as Instagram seeks to improve content discovery and get people to spend more time and money, in the app.

That’s good, isn’t it? You’ll soon have the option to revisit your posts in reverse chronological order, with an easy change to switch between different feeds. That’s what users have been looking for for years, right?

Well, somehow.

A problem with Instagram’s solution that has been tested since then in early December, is that you will not be able to set your settings as the default option, which means that if you want to see your feed in reverse chronological order, you must manually switch to your ‘Favorite’ or ‘Following’ feed each time you use the app.

Switch to Instagram feed

Now, that’s not a big imposition – touching the extra feed switch is pretty simple and will give you easy access to the Instagram experience without algorithms if you want. But at the same time, Instagram also knows that most people just won’t bother, which in a way makes it a win-win for the platform, as it gets positive PR from users by providing these alternative feed tools, while also not seeing any significant impacts on overall engagement , because most people will just keep using the algorithmically defined feed as always.

How can Instagram be sure of that? Because Facebook also provides the same option, with the ability to return your Facebook News Feed in reverse chronological order, just as it did in the days when you pushed and shared how you felt in your updates.

Facebook introduced its now infamous News Feed algorithm back in 2012 and since then users have been looking for an option to turn off the algorithm and give them more control over their experience. Facebook has tested different ways to ensure this, with the ability to switch to the ‘Recent’ feed always in your settings, while Facebook is also testing ways to do so in advance, including this 2020 test.

Facebook News Feed Sorting

Do you look famous?

Yes, Facebook already offers the exact options that Instagram now suggests, with News Feed sorting via ‘Favorites’, based on the people and profiles you choose, and ‘Recent’, which, similar to Instagram’s ‘Following’ list, shows the latest posts from those you follow .

Some users have access to these options in advance, others need to pay a little attention to the settings. But even if you have access, you probably don’t use them, because while you might want to see your feed in reverse chronological order, you won’t manually select the display option every time you sign in. Is not it?

Facebook knows that, and so does Instagram. So while it’s good that Instagram wants to provide more options, and will no doubt work to reduce user complaints about the lack of control, as these options will be readily available, in reality not many people will use them.

So that’s not exactly a return to the old Instagram and a way to completely eliminate the algorithm. All social platforms have experienced a significant increase in engagement due to algorithmic sorting and highlighting of content of interest to each individual user – and as such, will not allow you to simply turn them off so easily and lose all those gains.

As Mosseri notes, most people don’t go through all the posts in their main feed anyway, and if you opt out of the ‘Home’ feed view, you could end up missing important updates. This will give additional credence to his preferred, algorithmically defined approach, making even more users forget that these options exist.

In essence, it’s more of a reassuring move than a utility-focused one, a way for Instagram to gain some of the loudest critics of its algorithmic approach to calm down while still reaping optimal benefits.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it can be that an algorithmic feed is better, even if users think it is not. But it’s worth clarifying that this isn’t a return to user control that Instagram will promote, even if it provides more options.

Mosseri says the new diet options are now in the testing phase, with the goal of being fully introduced “in the first half of this year”.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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