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Instagram’s self-sabotage

Daisy Chandley asks why Instagram keeps trying to fix what isn't broken

In the midst of the 280-character roll-out on twitter, an insidious rumour has been spreading – Instagram is making another change that nobody wants or asked for and that might come close to destroying your life.

In the ultimate affront to carefully-curated feeds everywhere, a few choice influencers have noticed that their three-image rows have gained a new box, shifting everything along into an unfriendly foursome.

Such testing usually means the app is gearing up to make the change for everyone. In a world where nuclear war is looming, this seems an almost sickeningly petty complaint, but it does raise the question: with users still complaining about the dreaded algorithm change a few months back, why does Instagram keep trying to fix what isn’t broken?

As a bit of background for those not as manically up to date on Instagram’s every move as I am, the aforementioned algorithm change saw feeds moving from broadly chronological order to a sprawl of images ranging from a minute old to a (relatively ancient) few days old depending on a somewhat mysterious group of factors including how relevant the app thinks various photos are to you, what your relationships are to other users, and so on.

While this might sound like a positive step, it ended up leaving smaller accounts in the cold as their images were pushed down people’s feeds, while those who were already popular simply grew more so, helped by the valuable likes of their widely followed friends. This is all entrenching Instagram as a place of cliques rather than a forum for new work and new faces.

Admittedly, altering the grid is a change which has at least some rationale: with phone screens becoming both physically larger and higher resolution, you can fit more images on the screen without that new hair picture turning from bob to blob, and Instagram is right to try and keep up with the tech world.

However, Instagram is akin to LinkedIn for many creatives, and for photographers and stylists who cut their images up and spread them across a number of adjacent slots on their feed, this change – combined with the app’s refusal to introduce a much desired rearranging tool – will prove seriously annoying, turning their portfolio into a nonsensical mess of rogue limbs that won’t sit well with potential clients.

If Instagram do need to make the change, they should do what they failed to do in the past: listen to the valid concerns of their users.

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