Instagram Sheds Light on How it Works



Have you ever wondered why you see posts on Instagram in the order that you do? Instagram posted a detailed blog post titled: “Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works”. I found some of the things in their blog post to be interesting.

Instagram explained that it doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. Instead, they use “a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.” Each part of the Instagram app – Feed, Explore, and Reels – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it.

With the exception of ads, Instagram says that the majority of what you see is shared by those you follow. Instagram uses what they call “signals” – and there are thousands of them. Here are some of the “signals” they look for when deciding how to rank a post:

Information about the post: These are signals both about how popular a post is – think how many people have liked it – and more mundane information about the content itself, like when it was posted, how long it is if it’s a video, and what location, if any, was attached to it.

Information about the person who posted: This helps Instagram to get a sense for how interesting the person might be to you, and includes signals like how many times people have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.

Your activity:
This helps Instagram understand what you might be interested in and includes signals such as how many posts you’ve liked.

Your history of interacting with someone: This gives Instagram a sense of how interested you are generally in seeing posts from a particular person. An example is whether or not you comment on each other’s posts.

From this, I am getting the feeling that Instagram has been collecting a whole lot of data about its users. Personally, this makes me uncomfortable. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, considering that Facebook owns Instagram.

Instagram also wrote about “Shadowbanning” (which they have put in quotes). Instagram states that “shadowbanning” is a broad term that people use to describe many different experiences on Instagram. Instagram concludes that they need to be more clear about why they take down content, what is recommendable, and what isn’t.

In addition, Instagram notes that people consider their posts that are getting fewer likes or comments as a form of “shadowbanning”. Instagram responds: “We can’t promise you that you’ll consistently reach the same amount of people when you post. The truth is most of your followers won’t see what you share, because most look at less than half of their feed.”


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