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How and Why Instagram Optimized its Exploration System


In order for any kind of Instagram user out there to end up optimizing the experience that they would be able to have, they would need to start to customize their Explore tab with topics that interest them because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up exposing them to content that matters to them and is relevant rather than random content that they would never end up enjoying in any way, shape or form no matter how many other people swear by that content and claim that it represents the best of what the platform has to offer.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that Instagram is aware of this issue. As a result of the fact that this is the case, the company has decided that it is going to be changing up its Explore system so that it can make its algorithm a lot better at understanding the needs of its users. They are creating a universal explore system that would incorporate all of the needs of the users rather than foisting content and trends that they might not really have all that much of an interest in.

One way in which Instagram has been trying to optimize Explore is by adding a new feature called Suggested Photos. This feature comes up when you reach the end of your Home Feed. Home feed rankings have been a part of the platform for quite some time now, and with this new feature it will bring the best of both worlds by incorporating Explore into your home feed thereby resulting in a far more immersive experience than might have been the case otherwise.

Instagram has also started paying more attention to the user data that it ends up receiving. If you like a post from a technology blog, Instagram’s algorithm will start to offer you more content that would be coming from similar kinds of blogs. The platform monitored account embeddings to ascertain similarities between accounts, something that could greatly increase the likelihood that when you end up seeing something that is being suggested to you it would actually be relevant and would not just be some facsimile that the algorithm assumes that you are going to like based on rather arbitrary data factors.

One thing to note here is that Apple’s new policies are going to be impacting this sort of experiences. iPhones will now have targeted user data collection turned off by default. Users will have to actively toggle this setting on for Instagram to be able to access the data necessary in order to build accurate preference profiles, and since the social media platform is leaning so heavily into this it might just make it so that using an iPhone is going to end up giving you a drastically different user experience than if you had been using an Android phone or the like.

In fact, it’s highly possible that Instagram’s new focus on super targeted recommendations for the purposes of optimizing the Explore tab are a direct response to this move from Apple. While the post that Instagram made to announce these improvements obviously doesn’t mention this sort of thing explicitly, it bears noting that this comes at a rather contentious period in the company’s history.

Pretty soon we might see a situation wherein people would end up being forced to choose between using a phone that they prefer or being able to properly utilize a social media platform that they might be active on. It will be intriguing to see what changes occur thanks to these new policies, and chances are that things are probably only going to get even more tense from here on out.


Photo: Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Read next: Instagram restricts stories content in planned test run



This post was written by Zia Muhammad and was first posted to Digital Information World



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