Instagram reveals more about how its algorithms decide what you see

The company wants to clear some misconceptions about how its software works.

stockcam via Getty Images

More than five years after Instagram moved from a strictly chronological feed to an algorithmic one, you still hear people pining for the "good old days." And while the company appears uninterested in going back to how it did things in the past, Instagram has shared a new blog post that attempts to address some of the "misconceptions" around how it surfaces content. Penned by Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, the blog starts by saying no one algorithm decides what you see across every facet of the app. Instead, each part of the software has its own set of code governing how it ranks content.

All of the algorithms broadly work in the same way, though they're "tailored to how people use it." For instance, when it comes to your Feed and Stories queue, Instagram says the goal is to put photos and videos in front of you that come from friends, family and those you're closest to.

Each post is ranked based on information the app extracts from them. According to Instagram, there are "thousands" of these "signals," but in the majority of cases, one of the more important ones is the popularity of a post. However, it will also take into act your recent activity and history of interacting with someone. Instagram will then use this information to predict how likely you're to spend "a few seconds" on a post to comment, like and save it. "The more likely you are to take an action, and the more heavily we weigh that action, the higher up you'll see the post," says Mosseri. In short, the company aims to maximize your engagement with a post.

While the focus shifts to discoverability with the Explore tab, here too, Instagram tries to gauge how likely you are to engage with a photo or video. Where things are slightly different is when it comes to Reels. Here, Instagram says the goal is surfacing clips it thinks you'll find funny or entertaining. To that end, Instagram says the most important prediction it tries to make when it comes to Reels is whether you'll watch one all the way through.

The blog post also touches on shadowbanning. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn't have a lot to say here other than the fact that it plans to be more transparent about things. It says it's developing "better" in-app notification that will inform people why the company took down one of their posts.

If you want more control over your Instagram experience, the company recommends a couple of things. First, it says you should select your close friends for Stories. Not only will this allow you to limit who sees your Stories, but it will also prioritize their photos and videos. You should also mute (or unfollow) an account if you don't want to see their posts. And make sure to tap the "Not Interested" option to shape what you see elsewhere.