Dec 27, 2018 - Technology

Instagram assures users horizontal feed change was just a test

The Instagram app is seen in the App Store on an iPhone. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Instagram head Adam Mosseri took to Twitter Thursday to reassure users alarmed by an unannounced change in the apps' interface that the shift from a vertical scroll to a horizontal swipe was just a test that accidentally rolled out widely.

Why it matters: There have been reports that Instagram has been testing the new design for months, presumably to foster deeper user engagement with content and less "mindless scrolling" between posts.

What they're saying: "This was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated...Should already be rolled back," Mosseri said on Twitter.

The big picture: Mindless scrolling between posts was a big problem for Instagram's parent company Facebook, and was something executives told investors repeatedly that they wanted to fix.

  • To do so, Facebook changed the type of content it would algorithmically surface in the feed to include fewer posts from brands and media companies, and more from friends and family.
  • Instagram seems to be trying a different approach: Swiping requires a more deliberate thumb gesture than scrolling.

Between the lines: Some users complained about the adjustment on social media, arguing that it made the functionality difficult to understand and that the "swipe" function between posts was not preferable to scrolling.

Yes, but: Users frequently complain about app redesigns at first before they adjust to changes. There was an uproar in 2015 when Instagram updated the app so that posts were no longer chronological, but rather algorithmically surfaced in the feed.

Be smart: With most redesigns, users do eventually come around. But we've seen with Snapchat's redesign earlier this year how that effort can go very wrong, and alienate users who feel that the changes go too far.

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