Instagram opens up about the black box system it uses to place posts on a user's feed
Back in 2016, Instagram decided to change what a subscriber would see on his feed. At the time, the most recently sent posts were on top and as the user scrolled down, the posts got older and older. But Instagram decided to start using algorithms to decide which posts a subscriber would probably want to see first. At the time, Instagram said that it was doing this because the typical user was missing 70% of the posts in his feed.
Some Instagram users are unhappy with the current system, with some posters complaining that the algorithms bury their posts. This results in fewer views and fewer "likes." Instagram revealed on Friday some of the things that make its black box tick. There are three main things that the Facebook-owned picture and video sharing app looks at to determine what posts a subscriber will see when he opens the app:
- Interest: Based on a subscriber's past behavior, the algorithm determines what topics will be of prime interest to an Instagram member.
- Recency: How current is a particular post? A more recently posted message will be placed higher up in a user's feed than a post that is weeks old.
- Relationship: How close is the subscriber to the person who created a post. Did he comment on that member's messages before? Was he tagged in any of the member's pictures? A post made by someone with a relationship to the other subscriber will be given a higher ranking when it comes to its placement in the subscriber's timeline.
There are three other factors:
- Frequency: The number of times a user visited Instagram is important because Instagram wants each member to open the app and immediately see the most important posts put up since his last visit.
- Following: The more people a subscriber follows, the fewer times he will see posts from a specific person appear in his feed.
- Usage: The more time a user spends on Instagram, the more posts he reads which means he is digging into older messages.
Instagram also said that at the moment, it is not considering a return to the old system where more recent posts are on top of the feed. According to Instagram officials, they are worried that users will forget which system is in use. If a current subscriber is not happy with the current use of algorithms, they should let Instagram know. In addition, Instagram says that it doesn't give certain users a lower ranking due to the number of posts they send, or whether they favor sending pictures or video (on the other hand, if a member views more of one format than another, that will play a part in making up the posts in his feed, and the order in which they appear). Also, Instagram users are not punished for posting too many hashtags.
It's nice to see Instagram open up about the algorithms it uses to determine which posts get precedence over others in a user's feed. Now that everyone knows, perhaps they can game the system to make sure that the posts that are really important to them are the ones that show up first when they open the app.