Instagram intends to go the way of its parent company Facebook, and will soon switch your timeline from a chronological display to one ordered by an unknown algorithm, a.k.a. something to do with popularity. The move was announced by the company yesterday in a blog post, and means that in a few months the likelihood of you seeing photos of your friend's puppy will be determined by a formula.
"To improve your experience," reads the company's statement, "your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post."
Importantly, the company claims that they won't delete any posts from your feed — at least at first. The option to do so at a later date, it should be noted, is conspicuously left on the table.
"As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order."
Ugh. Does this mean that we'll all have to unfollow the hot people with 20,000 followers because every slutty photo they take will now dominate our entire feed?!
Rival company Twitter faced backlash earlier this year when it began testing a similarly nonlinear timeline. Despite the general freak out of its user base ("RIP Twitter" trended after the announcement), the company automatically turned that feature on for all its users at some point within the last month (to turn off the algorithmically generated Twitter timeline, go into your settings and uncheck "Show me the best Tweets first.")
At present, Instagram has announced no way to opt out of what will soon be a mandatory setting. And while in general we think this is a huge bummer, we here at SFist can see one potential benefit: You will soon be able to blame the machines when an overbearing relative demands to know why you didn't double-tap the artistically composed photo of their newborn. You know, "the algorithm ate your photo."