Instagram users may have briefly found themselves a tad confused earlier this week as the popular photo sharing app completely changed its logo and look. But under the hood, an even more ground-shaking change is underway that permanently changes how the service operates.
Soon images will no longer display in chronological order, but rather listed based on a proprietary algorithm. This is not necessary breaking news — the site itself announced back in March that it was making the change, and began testing it on a “select” number of users.
Parent company Facebook does something similar, aimed at highlighting posts you care about and suppressing others you may not. But now a group of users — perhaps some of the service’s most loyal — are finding out that Instagram may no longer be the gold mine it once was.
These are brands and influencers, both of which use the site for promotional purposes. Some of these accounts have tens or hundreds of thousands of users (if not millions), and counted on Instagram to quickly get out their message to their many followers.
Now these users are faced with the potential problem of not getting displayed on a significant portion of their followers. Like Facebook, these users now need to pay for guaranteed exposure, or take their chances.
In a statement to Inc, Instagram denied that the logo/design change was an attempt to cover up its move to an algorithmic timeline. It says tests are still ongoing — something Digital Trends was able to confirm in an informal poll, as some had it, some didn’t — and there were no immediate plans to roll it out broadly.
That might be due to the massive protest over the change. A Change.org petition so far has more than 336,000 signees, and with Snapchat increasingly cutting into Instagram’s active user base, angering your users might not be good business.
But, with any change there’s always potential for upside. One immediate benefit could be a reduction in clutter. Some of these “influencer” accounts are some of Instagram’s most active posters, which, if you’re following enough, could bury content you’re truly interested in. With a timeline system that is taking your likes into account, it might result in a better experience.
As for influencers, they’ll just have to figure out how to make do in this new world, and post higher quality content.