Instagram's long promised/threatened change from chronological to curated feeds is upon us (though not yet upon me as my feed remains resolutely linear). The reaction has been a tad heated to say the least. There's even a #keepinstagramchronological petition on change.org with over 330000 signatures so far, nearly twice as many as a campaign to give adequate accommodation to homeless teenagers! So do curated feeds spell doom for Instagram?
If It Isn't Broken Why Fix It?
Why change at all though? One reason is that the social media landscape is littered with the husks of former giants that didn't innovate or change, or that innovated and changed too much. So social media platforms can't sit still for too long, but they have to be careful not to strain their user's patience by leading them in a direction they don't want to go. Not an easy balance to strike.
There is, of course, a little money involved too. Facebook shelled out $1bn for Instagram in 2012 so they want to turn a profit. Business profiles are being rolled out and with that, expanded opportunities for advertising. Retaining existing users and attracting new ones means more people to advertise to. So there's a strong business case for them to make the user experience more compelling. In their own words...
You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.
To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.
It'll Probably Be Fine
Facebook is seen by many as the death star homing in on Instagram's Alderan. However, no matter how much you or I dislike it and despite the countless proclamations of its imminent death, it's still incredibly popular and hasthat make other social networks cry. Facebook and Instagram will be crunching data to see if engagement improves or drops off once the changes have occurred. So, as much we might hate to admit it, they probably know what they're doing. And it's worth remembering that Instagram's makers love and use it themselves, so they won't want to harm their own creation.
Whether the proposed changes will improve the experience, or are a bridge too far, remains to be seen. Some would like Instagram to take the same approach as Twitter, which makes curated feeds optional, with a slightly loaded 'Show me the best Tweets first' option in account settings.
However, the changes might be great, might make Instagram better and we might look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. But even if, as many fear, the changes degrade the user experience, there are plenty of other platforms waiting in the wings to take its place.
VSCO has just announced a redesign, although you need to be Indiana Jones to decipher their interface.
So fear not, Instagram will probably be fine. But even if it isn't, the sun will rise tomorrow and we'll still have places to post pictures of our breakfast.