After announcing the coming option back in December – as part of Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri’s appearance before the US Senate over concerns about how Instagram is harmful for youngsters – Instagram has now launched its algorithm-free, chronological feed option to all users.
As you can see here, you now have two new Instagram feed display options to choose from to control your main content display:
- Favorites – This displays the latest posts from accounts that you’ve added to your ‘Favorites’ list. You can add up to 50 accounts as Favorites, helping to prioritize updates from these users
- Following – This shows you posts from all the accounts that you follow in the app, as per the regular Instagram feed.
But importantly, both the new ‘Favorites’ and ‘Following’ feeds will show you posts in chronological order, as they’re posted. No more algorithm interference – it’s the Instagram you know and love of the past, with everything back in its right place.
Well, kind of.
As we noted at the time of the initial announcement, the problem with Instagram’s reverse-chronological feed options is that you can’t set either as a default – you’ll need to manually select the feed display you prefer every time you log in to the app.
Which, realistically, not many people are going to do, while Instagram, which has been able to boost user engagement via its algorithm-defined feed, will also be hoping that people realize that the algorithm feed is actually better, and that they see more of the content they care most about by trusting the system.
Instagram has the data to back this up – last year, in a post about how its algorithm works, Instagram explained that:
“When we first launched in 2010, Instagram was a single stream of photos in chronological order. But as more people joined and more was shared, it became impossible for most people to see everything, let alone all the posts they cared about. By 2016, people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. So we developed and introduced a Feed that ranked posts based on what you care about most.”
So Instagram benefits from having an algorithm in place, but users do too, going on this data. That’s at least partially why Instagram’s not giving you a way to lock in an alternative feed display as your permanent preference, because it’s better to go with the algorithm, improving time spent in the app and user satisfaction. Even if you don’t realize it.
Which is why this is more of a means to placate users than to provide a solution, as such.
Meta did that same on Facebook, adding the capacity to switch to a ‘Recent’ feed in your settings and in-stream.
That makes users feel more in control, like they have the option to switch to an algorithm-free feed if they choose – so they can shut about the algorithm ruining their social media lives already.
But most people don’t use it. Because really, who can be bothered flicking the switch every time they log in, especially when, as Instagram notes, they eventually start missing updates because the algorithm is no longer highlighting the most relevant posts in stream?
But you now have the option, which will be music to the ears of the many Instagram users who’ve been requesting such in the comment section of every one of Mosseri’s posts for years.
Will that make Instagram great again? Probably not.
In many ways, the main feed is no longer the primary engagement surface anyway, with Reels and Stories now taking the mantle, and seeing more usage day-to-day. That likely lessens Instagram’s internal concerns about reduced engagement as a result of people switching off the algorithmic feed – but as noted, realistically, not many users are going to switch off the algorithm every time they log in anyway.
But it’s there. You have the option now, and you can test it out for yourself to feel more in control.
There, feel better? Good. That’s all that anyone ever wanted.