Instagram has real-time coverage of almost everything happening in the world. Now its unlocking that content with a revamped Explore tab featuring Trending Tags, Trending Places, curated content, plus a new Places Search. You’ll be able to see all the photos from Father’s Day or Coachella, scope out your next vacation spot, or see photos of important topics chosen by Instagram’s team.
Twitter and its acquisition Periscope are trying to dominate real-time media, showing you the most exciting stuff in the world as it happens. But with Instagram’s 300 million users and 70 million photos uploaded per day that make it bigger than Twitter, it could become more than just beautiful pictures. Instagram could be your window into anywhere.
The new Explore tab comes to the U.S. today before rolling out elsewhere, but the whole world will now have the new search, which lets you look for people, tags and places from a single box.
Instagram started with a Popular tab before merging it with search to form Explore in 2012. It was always just a bunch of beautiful sunsets and architecture, though, which felt distant or anonymous. Last year Instagram started personalizing the Explore tab with top photos and videos Liked by people you follow. Still, it was missing the real-time potential of the 70 million photos and videos people upload every day.
The Instagram team was already curating content from certain trending topics and has used it for things like a nine-photo spread on the Juno storm for the cover of the New York Times. This now gives U.S. users the ability to immediately pull up relevant topics such as the unrest in Baltimore or photos and video from the Nepal earthquake.
“We can look at all these festivals and concerts, but this is also pretty remarkable because you can see all these people putting sand bags down after a flood, for example. You really get to feel what they are experiencing, and it really brings you into the moment,” Instagram project manager Blake Barnes said of the redesign.
Most noticeable is the enhanced Trending section atop Explore. It offers a collection of real-time trending topics based on hashtags, or places users have checked into. An example of this would be images from the NBA Finals or a recent music festival such as Bonnaroo. Users would either tag the event or check-in on Instagram, and then Instagram populates the trending content at the top of the page.
Live streaming from apps like Meerkat and Periscope aim to deliver the same sort of in-depth ground view as events happen in real-time. Though most of that content seems to be people looking into their fridge or talking about something other than breaking news.
Barnes said the focus was on trending topics and that Instagram did not have plans for live streaming at this time. However, the platform could easily leverage its much larger audience of already built-in content providers to take command of that space if it wanted.
The Instagram team will refresh the collections at the top of the Explore page on a regular basis for now. And though the trending topics part of the new Explore page is only available in the U.S. for now, Instagram tells us the new feature will roll out everyone else after “fine-tuning” the product.
What’s still missing is an easy way to explore photos and videos taken “Nearby.” Trending places from far away might feel exotic, and it will be intriguing to tune into trends. But we’re inclined to forge an emotional connection with what’s close to us. Today will make Instagram a teleportation device, but it could still benefit from showing us what’s in our own backyard.