Instagram is making good on the promise it made last month to bring back the chronological feed.
In a tweet Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced that the platform is rolling out some big changes to the way the core feed experience works, letting users choose between three different feeds. Two new options, Favorites and Following, sort content chronologically, while a third “home” option offers the algorithmically sorted feed we have now.
Mosseri says that the non-chronological home feed will feature “more and more recommendations over time,” functioning more as a discovery hub than a way to keep up on content from people you already follow. Favorites will finally let anyone who uses the app easily keep up to date on all updates from a small cluster of friends and family, though users can still find posts from everyone else they follow in the Following view.
The changes are “already out or going out over the next few weeks” according to Mosseri, and the company plans to roll out a finalized version of the chronological feed options in the first half of 2022. Unlike many limited tests that Facebook and Instagram experiment with regularly, expect to see these changes broadly implemented into the app’s experience.
Instagram users enjoyed a chronological feed for years, but the company switched to an algorithmic feed back in 2016 after years of foreshadowing from parent company Facebook (now Meta) that the app would be its next advertising cash cow. With an algorithmic feed, Instagram was able to aggressively intersperse the ads that still dominate there, moving the app away from its origins as a chronological photo sharing space.
Fast forward to 2022 and the company isn’t re-introducing chronological feeds just to keep its users happy — if that was the case, they would have immediately reverted the changes back in 2016 in light of the public backlash. Instagram’s decision to bring back chronological feeds is a win for anyone who uses the app, but it’s also another example of how Meta generally only implements common sense changes to make its apps safer or better for users only when under duress, whether from bad press or looming regulation.
Lawmakers in the U.S. are focusing on the dangers of social media algorithms and some proposed legislation would force platforms to give users more choice or provide deeper transparency into how those algorithms rank content.
One bill, the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act would suspend Section 230 liability protections from companies like Instagram when they use algorithms that “amplify misinformation that leads to offline violence.” Another bill, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act would require platforms to add a toggle that lets users disable algorithmic recommendations.
“We believe in more transparency and accountability and we believe in more control,” Mosseri said during his first ever testimony before Congress last month. “That’s why we’re currently working on a version of a chronological feed that we hope to launch next year.”