instagram has finally revealed the algorithm that dictates what you see first

But really we just want chronological order.

by Georgie Wright
05 June 2018, 3:14pm

2016 was a landmark year for many things, but as they say, chaos starts at home. And by "home" we mean Instagram. Yes, it was just two years ago that posts appeared in the order that they were posted, rather than the mish-mash of three day old memes and last week’s cat pics we get today. But really the worst part of all this is Instagram never really explaining why they changed the algorithm in the first place.

Finally Instagram HQ have revealed the triptych of factors fueling their mysterious ordering algorithm: Recency, Interest and Relationship. But what do they mean exactly?

Recency is fairly self-explanatory: Instagram prioritises more recent posts over older posts -- generally. Still perplexed as to why you’re seeing a week-old RuPaul compilation video? That’s where the ‘Interest’ category comes in. If Instagram algorithms designate something as a matter of high interest to you, this can be prioritised over timeliness. According to TechCrunch, interest is “determined by past behaviour on similar content and potentially machine vision analysing the actual content of the post.” After thorough inspection of the Wikipedia page on Machine Vision, we’re not that much wiser about how exactly it works, but the crux of the Interest subcategory seems to be: if you like a lot of those really satisfying videos of cakes being iced, you’re probably going to see a lot more of those really satisfying videos of cakes being iced.

Finally, Relationship: Instagram prioritise people who you like frequently, comment on often, and whose DM’s you slide into regularly. They don’t say anything about the impact of scrolling miles down your crush’s feed in the semi-paralytic horror that you’ll accidentally like their post from June 2015, but it seems like a natural extension of this subcategory.

So those are The Big Three, but there is also a little three to factor in: a) Frequency -- if you go on Instagram regularly, the posts will refresh more. b) Following -- the more people you follow, the less specific the order is. c) Usage -- if you only flick on for a couple of minutes, you’re just going to skim the cream off the top each time, never plunging into the murky waters of ramen burgers and starter pack memes lurking below the surface.

Question is, why? Apparently under the old chronological format, users were only seeing about 70 percent of posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts. Now, TechCrunch reports that 800 million-plus users see 90 percent of their friends’ posts, and linger a lot longer on the app. Which means more time to look at ads and more money for Instagram. Which means they have no plans to revert back to chronological order anytime soon. Which means that the world will continue to descend into pandemonium of seismic proportions. Sorry.