Instagram’s mobile application has been hiding what first appeared to be an account verification feature of some sort, and other developer settings, TechCrunch has learned. The feature puts a small text label next to the Instagram user’s name which simply reads “Verified.” However, this may not be representative of a forthcoming verification badge system, similar to Twitter’s, from what we’ve heard.
The feature was first brought to our attention by Ahmed Mohd, who runs FrontLabs.org - a team of developers and researchers also known as venomous0x. We’ve since tested his work independently to confirm the feature’s existence. (OK, we asked some actual Android developers to do so instead, as that seemed like the safer bet: thanks to BlueStacks team members John Gargiulo, SVP Biz Dev and Marketing; CTO Suman Saraf; and engineer Shashi Kant Sharma, for taking a look.)
Mohd says he originally edited the Instagram Android APK to reveal hidden developer options included with the app in order to see what was available – which is interesting news in and of itself. There, he also found a setting for enabling “face detection,” but this doesn’t appear to offer anything beyond the “tagging” option Instagram has today, from what we were able to see.
In further digging, Mohd also found the addition of a “Verification” feature, which does appear to be something new. Enabling this for testing purposes involves editing a line of code, then visiting your profile page to see the “Verified” tag appear next to your name. Basically, as Mohd explains, “Verified” tags are already working, but accounts are not verified yet. To produce the screenshot that shows how they look, he had to reverse the checking algorithm, he says.
The result, at least for now, is a rather plain gray box with white lettered text. (The above screenshot was created by reproducing Mohd’s instructions on how to “switch on” verified tags; the one below is Mohd’s own screenshot.)
This May Not Be “Verified” Accounts, But How Long Can Instagram Hold Out?
It’s hard to imagine this is what Instagram’s “verified” accounts would look like, if they ever rolled out. It’s not well done, and it’s hard to see. Its unfinished nature gives credence to something else we’re hearing – that this is not a forthcoming “Verified” badge system similar to Twitter’s, but rather a backend tool for protecting accounts from spam and abuse.
Twitter, of course, pioneered account verification, a still somewhat murky process which angers some of those itching for the “blue seal of approval” next their Twitter profile. It’s something that can help users grow their Twitter following bases, as it gives the account an air of legitimacy or importance. At first, only high-profile figures and celebrities were verified on Twitter, but today the network verifies other lesser important (ahem, not important at all) people, too (like me).
Last year, Facebook also hopped on the Verification bandwagon with the launch of Verified accounts, but the feature debuted without any sort of badge or denotation. It wasn’t until this spring that Facebook began to copy the Twitter verification feature in earnest, with a new option to add a small blue check mark next to Verified profiles and pages, again for prominent public figures and brands.
It would not be surprising if Instagram wanted to also offer a verification option of its own at some point – especially as it’s increasingly competitive with Twitter, as indicated by both companies’ recent pushes into private messaging. (Instagram with direct messages, and Twitter with picture support in DM’s.)
Unfortunately, that may not be the case here.
Asked to comment on the hidden setting, a rep for Instagram shot down much hope of this being the much sought after “Verified” account badge, saying:
“While verified accounts have been a highly requested feature from the Instagram community, we are not currently working on the feature.”