Desperate to reinvent the wheel as it weathers a Senate investigation and cedes more and more of its young user base to platforms like TikTok, Instagram will once again give users the option to browse “a version” of its chronological feed after years of utilising an algorithmically-generated one.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri shared the news during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, where he was repeatedly questioned on a number of topics related to a whistleblower’s recent allegation that the platform knowingly profits off of an online environment that’s toxic for its teenage users.
The concession about the chronological feed seems mostly like chum for sharks, especially considering how widely-reviled the algorithmically-sorted feed has been amongst Instagram’s users throughout the years. First introduced in 2016, the algorithmic feed bumps up posts by users whose content you liked and commented on more frequently, and was later updated to also include “recommended posts” from users whose accounts you might not have even been following.
Instagram was quick to point out that it is “creating new options — providing people with more choices so they can decide what works best for them,” while it is definitely “not switching everyone back to a chronological feed.” Mosseri told Senate committee members that the company is “targeting the first quarter of next year” to launch the new chronological feed.
UX news aside, Mosseri also said that Instagram is interested in creating a new oversight mechanism known as an “industry body” that could instruct the platform on a set of best practices regarding things like handling sensitive information, like children’s data, and implementing new parental controls. Senators who had just spent hours grilling Instagram over its apparent safety failures seemed less than impressed by the suggestion that it could right the ship by inventing new ways to regulate itself.
“The time for self-policing is over,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
This isn’t the first time Instagram has been compelled by a U.S. Senate investigation to take the safety of its users seriously: Back in November, the platform first began testing its new “Take a Break” opt-in feature, which encourages users to do just that by serving them periodic in-app break reminders after an amount of time of their choosing.
Referring to that feature and other parental control options Mosseri teased for 2022, Blumenthal sniped that the suggestions were “underwhelming.”
“That ain’t gonna save kids from the addictive effects … of your platform,” he said.