Rather than just sunsets from foreign countries and selfies by fashion models, Instagram’s Explore page is now also personalized with top photos and videos Liked by people you follow. Personalization highlights Instagram’s focus on your own social graph and a subjective vision of beauty, to contrast with Vine, which centers around re-sharing and globally popular expert content creators.
Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger tipped me off to the change with a post on Facebook saying “If it’s been a while since you checked out the Instagram Explore page, give it a whirl; the team’s been working on incorporating personalized content in there now, too.”
Instagram confirmed the change saying “We’re always looking to update the types of posts you see in Explore to better tailor it to you. We’ll show you a variety of photos and videos that people you follow have liked, as well as content that is trending in the Instagram community.”
Instagram replaced the Popular tab with Explore in mid-2012, adding a search feature for finding users and looking at photos with a particular hashtag. But the main view of the Explore tab was still dominated by the photos and videos which accrued the most Likes quickly and it thereby favored celebrities and users who’d amassed large followings. The photos were usually very pretty, but often stuck to globally accessible themes like landscapes, food, and pets. Explore felt more like “What people like” than “What you’ll like”.
The new version of Explore changes that. It’s now a combination of what’s globally popular, and what’s hot with people you follow. If you track a bunch of painters, you’re more likely to see fine art on Explore. Follow athletes? You might see more sports photos and videos. And if you follow people that live nearby you, you might see your own city crop up on Explore. This makes me much more interested in the tab. It’s like listening to Pandora instead of the radio.
This revamp will change the dynamic of growing an audience on Instagram. Before, since the whole world saw similar content (a selection of around 12 photos or videos from the top 300 or so at the moment), breaking onto the Explore page was the easiest way to win followers. But now, the more subjective version spreads the spotlight around rather than illuminating just a few photographers.
In that sense, Instagram and Vine are diverging. While most anyone can make a decent photo look good with filters and lighting effects, shooting a compelling Vine is much, much tougher. You need a great idea and a deep sense of cinematography, humor, and timing that most people lack.
My uninspired Vines are usually just me panning around some candid situation. They pale in comparison to the mini-movies on Vine’s Explore->Popular Now page, which is an objective feed of the top Vines of the day. If you don’t already, try browsing Vine’s Popular Now section. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of the Internet, full of hilarious skits, impressive physical feats, and video editing wizardry.
Vine’s Popular feed and Revine feature serve to promote professional and semi-professional creators, much the way YouTube does. Now, Instagram’s Explore tab makes room for more amateurs and people you might know. Even if it doesn’t gain global popularity, a photo or video that touches your community might end up on Instagram Explore.
The two apps are settling into their own niches: Vine as a broadcast entertainment medium, and Instagram as community beauty-sharing forum.
[Image Credit: Getty/ZoneCreative, modified by TechCrunch]