Instagram may be about to make the biggest change ever to your experience with the app soon, in the hope that you’ll stop obsessing so much over how many likes your Coachella posts and #foodpix get.
During Facebook’s annual F8 software developer conference in San Jose, California, today, Instagram’s top executive Adam Mosseri explained that the photo-sharing service is going to start a test later this week that hides the number of likes on each post from other users. The goal, he explained, is to make Instagram feel less “like a competition.”
The testing is going to happen in Canada ahead of presumably a wider rollout, depending on how it’s received there. As part of the test, should you happen to be among the participants, users scrolling through your feed would see only your posts and no indication of many users “liked” them. And while only you would still see who all clicked like on your posts, you wouldn’t see the actual number. You’d have to add up all the likes. Also, Instagram seems to be testing the possibility of hiding the number of likes from the post creator as well, and giving them the opportunity to see the likes only if they want to.
To say this is a major change for the service, which is wildly popular among young people as well as young adults, would be an understatement. It certainly seems to herald a shift in influencer culture, where the number of likes on a post is a currency that’s literally worth its weight in money, leading to brand deals and sponsorships for many of the Insta-famous set.
Word of the change also comes as Instagram is rolling out new tools and efforts to crack down on bullying, in addition to turning the service into more of a revenue-generating e-commerce hub for Instagram and its parent company, Facebook.
Instagram also announced today, via a company blog post, that starting next week, “you can shop inspiring looks from the creators you love without leaving Instagram. Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details in comments or Direct, you can simply tap to see exactly what your favorite creators are wearing and buy it on the spot.”
All that said, a major new era in the story of Instagram — which in recent months lost its two co-founders who left abruptly over differences with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — is about to begin. The rosy view here, in my opinion, is that if this Instagram test does turn into a wider feature, it would probably be a good thing — for users, for the company, for everyone, really, who’s constantly obsessing over the Instagram metrics that offer a skewed assessment of their supposed popularity.