Excitement for change is rare and when it comes to social apps like Instagram, any big change is typically loathed. Today was no different.
Instagram, the social app owned and operated by Facebook and used by more than a billion people the world over, decided to run a small “test” of a new format — one that shifts the app’s well-known infinite scroll of posts and images to a swipe experience similar to that found within its popular Stories feature.
Anyway, that was according to Adam Mosseri, who came in to lead Instagram after its founders left abruptly a few months ago, reportedly over issues with Facebook’s meddling in the operations of their app and eagerness to monetize it. Mosseri took to Twitter today — not in an official statement, but in response to some of the more high-profile early complaints, like that from YouTube personality Casey Neistat — to say that the swipe feature was “a test that went to a few orders of magnitude more than people intended.”
An Instagram spokeswoman instead attributed the change to “a bug” and noted that “we quickly fixed the issue and feed is back to normal.” The feed was indeed quickly switched back to the scrolling experience so many are used to, but there’s little denying that the “test,” “bug” or whatever you want to call it succeeded in showing Instagram how much people do not want the overall user experience to change. (It was a rare moment of social media unity, with shock and hatred coming from anyone who cared enough to comment — #instafail even started trending on Twitter.) On the flipside, it shows how close Instagram is to changing it anyway. Tests like this are not exactly early stage moves.
Asked if the change to a swipe format, or a version of it, was something to expect in the future, the Instagram spokeswoman declined to comment. Same for whether the goal of any prospective rollout of a stories-esque swipe mode for a the main feed was something aimed at helping advertisers get eyeballs to linger for even a second longer on a paid or sponsored post.
Because, after the initial surprise of such a big aesthetic and technical change, what one may have noticed is how the change forces the user to go slower. There was no blurring past posts — a user was taken and stopped at each and forced to swipe to get to the next. Annoying for the people used to not really paying attention to most of what flies by them on the app, but something that could be a nice selling point for Instagram, as it’s poised to become an even bigger part of Facebook’s overall revenue, nearly all of which is based on advertising.
And Instagram is not afraid to annoy users in favor of advertisers, surely because it knows it would take a lot more to force the first group to abandon it. The biggest test of their loyalty so far seems to be the early 2016 change fully away from a reverse chronological feed, the format with which the app launched in 2010. Even though the newest “test” of swipe was a certain fail with users, so was the shift from chronological (requests for it to come back were included in many of the complaints over the swipe test), and Instagram has done little but grow its base in the two years since.
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