A chronological feed is once again available on Instagram. More than five years after the company first switched to an algorithmically-ranked feed, the app is bringing back the ability for users to see feed posts ordered by recency. The app is rolling out the change now to all users globally, after first confirming that new versions of the feed were in the works last December.
Importantly, the new chronological option is not on by default, and there’s no way for users to ditch the algorithm entirely. Instead, people can now move between three different versions of their feeds: the algorithmic “home” feed, which remains the default; a “following” feed, which orders accounts you follow in reverse chronological order; and “favorites,” which is a feed of up to 50 favorited accounts. You can move between the three feeds by tapping on the new dropdown menu in the top left corner of the app.
Even though the chronological feed isn’t on by default, the fact that it’s coming back at all is a major reversal for Instagram, which has for years defended its decision to switch to an algorithmic feed despite years of complaints and conspiracy theories about "shadowbans."
As recently as last June, Instagram published a lengthy blog post detailing how its ranking algorithm works. In the blog post, Instagram’s top executive, Adam Mosseri, wrote that at the time Instagram moved away from a chronological feed in 2016, “people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections.”
But “the algorithm” has become a sticky subject for Instagram, which is facing scrutiny for the impact it has on teens’ mental health. In particular, the way that the app ranks and suggests content to young people has gotten outsized attention from lawmakers, some of whom have proposed legislation to regulate algorithms.
Instagram has also gotten more aggressive in inserting “suggested posts” and Reels into users’ feeds in recent months, as Facebook’s popularity starts to dip. By rolling out new versions of its feed now, Instagram can both head off complaints about its new recommendations-filled approach, and claim that it’s offering users a “choice” about whether or not they use its ranking algorithm.