Instagram reveals more information about how its algorithm decides what you see on your feed

·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Instagram has revealed more information about how it decides which images show in users’ feeds.

The company said that it was looking to shed more light on its algorithm amid concerns about what kinds of content is pushed into those feeds.

But it also took issue with the idea there was one algorithm at all, and instead said that the calculations that go into choosing the order of posts is far more complicated.

Adam Mosseri, who is now the head of Instagram and was previously in charge of Facebook’s news feed, said that the company was looking to encourage more trust in the app.

“It’s hard for people to trust what they don’t understand, which is why we wanted to shed more light on how Instagram works, and why you see what you see,” Mr Mosseri wrote in tweets explaining the decision to publish the new information. “We often get asked about ‘the algorithm,’ so we wanted to break things down a bit more.

“Our systems are always evolving, and what you see in this post may change at some point – but we’re going to share more in real time when there are big changes, so that you can better understand what’s going on.”

A number of people have argued that Instagram should not have any kind of algorithmic feed, and should instead show information as it appears chronologically, as it did when it was launched. But in its announcement, it said that users were likely to miss most posts in their feed, and that the algorithm was key to ensuring they saw the important ones.

The company then takes a set of signals – which include information such as when a post was shared and whether people are more likely to like videos, though adds up to thousands of different pieces of information in total – and uses those to make predictions about what actions people are likely to take on a post.

If the algorithm thinks that people are more likely to interact with any given post, then it will be pushed up in the feed, Instagram said.

It noted that the process could change over time, and that it was adding and removing different signals and predictions as it goes. For instance, it recently stopped pushing down stories that had been reshared, after users complained that it meant that content posted around major events was likely to be buried in the feed, it said.

It uses similar systems to rank the other parts of Instagram, such as the “explore” tab and its “reels”. It detailed some of those signals and prediction processes in its long post.

Instagram also recommended that people take action to ensure that their posts are more relevant, if they wish. Those actions can include choosing close friends, mute accounts you are not interested in, and choosing “not interested” on recommended posts – all of which will also be fed into the processes that decide what is being shown.

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