Tired: algorithms. Wired: chronological timelines.
Instagram users have begged for a chronological timeline for six years. Today Instagram finally gave in, offering not one, but two ways users can see content displayed according to the time it was shared. A new Following tab shows users content from everyone that they follow in chronological order. A second Favorites tab shows users chronological content from 50 chosen accounts. The features are available as part of Instagram’s new update, rolling out today.
Instagram first teased the prospect of a chronological timeline in January, when Adam Mosseri tweeted that the company was testing out different news feed formats. The tweet came less than a month after Mosseri was asked in a December Senate hearing whether the Instagram algorithm was making the platform addictive to teens.
Instagram isn't just contending with political backlash. It's also competing with rival TikTok for youth attention. TikTok’s algorithm is known for being incredibly on point for surfacing posts users will like, and the platform is giving Instagram a run for its money — literally. During Instagram parent company Meta's Q4 earnings call last year, Mark Zuckerberg said that Instagram’s TikTok copycat, Reels, is the company’s “fastest-growing content format by far," but it might not be enough to keep TikTok from usurping Instagram's social media crown.
Instagram is in a precarious position. Algorithms are effective for getting users to stay in the app, but users are worried algorithms are manipulating them, and clearly feel nostalgic about the old Instagram.
Twitter has found itself in the same position. The company has experimented with algorithmic feeds, earlier this month adding an option to switch between a curated feed and a chronological one. The company quickly reversed course after users complained about Twitter's decision to make the algorithmic timeline the default option.
Instagram's chronological feed is rolling out in an update today. In the top left corner of the screen, users will see a new inverted carrot shape next to the Instagram logo. Just tap the carrot to see the new Following and Favorites feeds. However, the algorithmic feed we've become accustomed to will remain the default when users open the app — the new features only temporarily reshuffle content.