Instagram Is Making Outage Alerts Part of Its User Experience

Instagram Is Making Outage Alerts Part of Its User Experience
Photo: Chandan Khanna, Getty Images

Just a week after Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp suffered two major global outages, the company’s back with an update that will make its tech hiccups easier to stay on top of. On Tuesday, Instagram announced that it was testing a new feature that would alert users at the top of their Activity Feeds when the platform is going through some sort of outage or tech issue. And perhaps most importantly, it’ll let those users know when they can expect those problems to be resolved.

“Through conversations with our community and extensive research, we know how confusing it can be when temporary issues happen on Instagram,” the company wrote.

“When they impact engagement or distribution, we also know that it can lead people to think that the problems are unique to them, based on what they post,” it went on. “That lack of clarity can be frustrating, which is why we want it to be easier to understand what’s going on, directly from us.”

The feature, which is being test-run in the U.S. right now, “won’t send a notification every single time there is an outage,” Instagram says, but only when the company notices that “people are confused and looking for answers.” The company also noted that “if it makes sense to,” then it will roll the feature out to more people, and ostensibly to more countries.

Graphic: Instagram Graphic: Instagram

On top of this, Instagram is also rolling out a new tool — called “Account Status” — to let people know whether their accounts are “at risk of being disabled.” In the coming months, the company added, it plans to add more intel about a user’s account that they can check using the tool, like how their content is being dolled out and recommended to other users on the platform. And if users think Instagram might have made a mistake, they can appeal by tapping the “request a review” button right on the Account Status page.

Taken together, both of these updates suggest that Facebook is finally coming around to what a lot of us have known for a while: in spite of its massive role in our collective culture, the company really, really sucks at explaining its nuts and bolts to users. And while these changes might make things more clear for Instagram’s users, those on other Facebook properties — particularly WhatsApp, which is akin to a public utility in a lot of the world, will literally be left in the dark the next time an outage inevitably arrives. Hopefully, this tool won’t just stop in the U.S., and won’t just stop with Instagram: every user on every Facebook platform deserves to know why their access is getting borked.