Instagram's latest feature: Personalised video feed, themed channels in Explore section

The latest feature on the Explore page will give you a channel called 'Videos you might like', which will collect videos from across the globe on a particular theme and make it into a seamless viewing experience, ensure videos auto-play.


Instagram seems to be on an app updation spree. Soon after announcing that it is going to experiment with algorithmic feeds, the Facebook owned image-based social network has announced some interesting features to its Explore feed.

The latest feature on the Explore page will give you a channel called 'Videos you might like', which will collect videos from across the globe on a particular theme and make it into a seamless viewing experience, ensure videos auto-play. You will also get 'Featured' channels with videos on specific topics as you scroll down your Explore page.

In a blog post Instagram explains that these features have been added to make the discovery experience better. But there will not be any fundamental changes to Explore section. "The more you like, the better Explore gets, adjusting to your preferences and showing you more of the stuff you enjoy. And if you see something you don’t like, tap “See Fewer Posts Like This” in the ‘…’ menu to make your Explore experience even better," says the post.

 Instagrams latest feature: Personalised video feed, themed channels in Explore section

These features have started to roll out on Instagram version 7.20 which is available on Apple App Store as well as Google Play Store. At the moment the feature is only available in the US and will start rolling out to the rest of the world soon.

If this thematically tagged video suggestions in your Explore tab, which will play videos of specific themes, sounds familiar then you are not mistaken. Snapchat's Live discover feature does the same around different topics everyday. It would be unfair to call Instagram's new feature, a direct copy of the Snapchat feature. But the auto-play feature was introduced by Snapchat not long ago.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been aping Snapchat for quite a while now, with the latest feature being Messenger Codes which is a straight lift of Snapchat's Snap codes. That Facebook is copying Snapchat speaks volumes about the relevance of Snapchat.

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But if one looks at the amount of updates that Instagram has been getting this year, one thing is clear - Instagram is really betting big on video. Earlier this year, Instagram introduced View counts to let you know how many times your videos have been viewed (similar to Vine's loop counts). There was also another update which now lets you record 60 seconds of video on Instagram. It makes sense considering the fact that video consumption on Instagram has increased by around 40% the the last six to seven months.

These new features on the Explore page certainly sound good if you are someone who loves Instagram videos. But at the same time it raises questions regarding advertising. Will video ads be inserted in these thematic videos? Will you get an option to skip the ads or will have to watch an entire ad before the next auto-play video begins? All these are questions that will be answered only when these new features become more mainstream. I am already seeing an increasing number of advertisements - picture or slideshows or videos - appearing on my Instagram feed as it is. So far the Explore page has been shorn of ads as it is a means to discover new work and new users.

The algorithmic feed debate is still wide open with many people liking it and others downright hating it (me included). Personally speaking, I love the reverse chronological order in which Instagram currently shows the photos from users across the globe. I don't have a fixed time to check my Instagram feed. So I really like the randomness of the reverse chronological order which shows me the latest images. Specially so, because I follow a lot of curated accounts and almost half of the people I follow have been a result of these curated accounts.

I may or may not like or comment on every post I see. And I have the option to 'Turn On Notifications' for people whose Instagram updates I really want to keep a tab on - so I don't miss out on that. But I really don't want to give that power to an algorithm - which will show me what it feels I want to see.

Instagram hasn't yet activated the algorithmic feed, but even when it does, I don't know if there will be an option to opt-out of it. A lot of users and businesses had already started reminding their followers to 'Turn on Post Notifications' by putting up that message as an Instagram post. Last month, for a couple of days, my Instagram feed was full of such annoying posts.

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While we wait for the algorithmic feed to kick in, there hasn't been any update on when the new video features in the Explore tab will open up for Indian users.

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