Less than a day after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg elicited outrage by saying that more than 30% of users’ Instagram feeds would consist of AI-recommended content from people they don’t follow by next year, the photo-sharing app’s head honcho said the company would stop updates in an effort to staunch the flood of complaining from its users.
A Meta spokesperson told Gizmodo on Thursday afternoon that the company would pause the test of a full-screen feed, which is currently being rolled out to a small percentage of users, and decrease the number of AI-recommended posts that users see in their feeds. These features may reappear in the future; however, it seems likely that Meta, which owns Instagram, won’t roll them out again until users cool off.
“Based on our findings and community feedback, we’re pausing the full-screen test on Instagram so we can explore other options, and we’re temporarily decreasing the number of recommendations you see in your feed,” the spokesperson told Gizmodo in an emailed statement. “We recognize that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right.”
The full-screen test will start disappearing over the next one to two weeks, the newsletter Platformer reported Thursday.
In an interview with Platformer on Thursday afternoon, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said that the company needed to go back to the drawing board. On Tuesday, Mosseri posted a Reel defending Instagram’s pivot to video and seemingly random recommendations after power users Kylie Jenner (360 million followers) and her sisters, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian (326 million and 192 million followers, respectively), supported the “Make Instagram Instagram Again” movement making the rounds on the app.
“I’m glad we took a risk—if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” Mosseri told Platformer. “But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. [When] we’ve learned a lot, then we come back with some sort of new idea or iteration. So we’re going to work through that.”
Mosseri said Meta’s own measurements bore out the complaints. Users were frustrated with Instagram’s new feed designs and engaging with the app less. The usage data “isn’t great,” he said.
As far as recommendations go, Mosseri confirmed that the company would be decreasing this type of content but wouldn’t specify by how much. He added that there should be a high bar for content that’s being discovered and that people should be happy to see it.
“You should be delighted to see it. And I don’t think that’s happening enough right now. So I think we need to take a step back, in terms of the percentage of feed that are recommendations, get better at ranking and recommendations, and then—if and when we do—we can start to grow again.”
In a phone interview with Gizmodo on Thursday, Tati Bruening, the photographer who created the “Make Instagram Instagram Again” meme, said she was thrilled to hear the platform’s announcement. The meme was born a few days ago when Bruening was scrolling through Instagram and seeing “back-to-back Reels,” even though she wasn’t on the Reels tab. Feeling frustrated because she hadn’t seen any photos of her friends, she came to the conclusion that the app shouldn’t be like this.
“I put up a meme half-jokingly and attached a petition to it with no expectation. And it went crazy,” the photographer recalled.
Since she posted her meme five days ago, it has received more than 2.2 million likes. Her accompanying petition, which called for the app to “stop trying to be TikTok” and go back to an algorithm that favors photos, has received more than 226,000 signatures on Change.org.
Although Instagram has not addressed many of the demands Bruening included in her petition, the photographer said she said this response as a “great first step” and proof that the platform is listening to its users. She added that getting rid of the full-screen test was the right move because it would bring back a feed that “feels more like Instagram and more like our roots.”
“I just want to stress that I am so happy to see our community come together, and I’m so happy that Instagram has communicated with us and that we’re going to see change moving forward. I think that we absolutely won all together at the end of the day,” Bruening said.
Update 7/28/2022, 4:49 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional comment from Bruening.