After swearing up and down for months that it would not bring back the reverse-chronological feed despite users’ overwhelming preference for it, Instagram is now making a move toward doing exactly that. On Thursday the company announced that it was updating its algorithm to “ensure the posts you see are timely.” This update won’t offer a complete return to reverse-chronological order, but it’s a concession to Instagram users who have been needling the app to undo the change since it was first instituted in 2016.
A quick recap for anyone unfamiliar with how Instagram’s feed works: At the dawn of Instagram, the photo-sharing app displayed posts in the order they were posted, with the most recent ones first and older ones visible by continuing to scroll back. In 2016, Instagram introduced an algorithmic feed, which gives more weight to certain posts it anticipates users will be more interested in, even if they’re less recent. (The feed is similar to those used by many of its social media brethren, including its parent company, Facebook.) The changes prompted influencers to threaten to mutiny, and app users everywhere chafed at the uncanniness of not seeing Fourth of July photos until July 6, but Instagram stuck to its guns—until now. In a blog post on its website, Instagram admits that it has in fact heard its users’ pleas:
Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed. With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about. So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up.
This guarantee that I will see my best friend’s selfie from Australia as soon as it’s posted makes me want to send my actual best friend down under just to prove Instagram wrong. But I guess we’ll have to take the app’s word for now. In addition to the algorithm change, Instagram announced that it is also testing a “New Posts” button that users can touch to see recent images. Ideally, this will prevent the app from refreshing automatically, which can interrupt users’ scrolling through their feeds.
The internet is used to Facebook’s endless fiddling with its news feed algorithm, but this is still relatively new territory for Instagram. It seems possible that this could fix things. But it seems just as possible that this won’t be the salve Instagram is promising, given how many issues algorithms have brought on recently. (Remember YouTube’s creepy children’s content crisis? Algorithms are partly to blame for it!) Until we see how this actually goes in practice, we’ll hold off on double-tapping.