Instagram Is Experimenting With Removing an App-Defining Feature

"Private Like Counts" are being tested this week.

If you’ve ever deleted a post on Instagram because it didn’t get enough likes, executives at the Facebook-owned company say they hear you. To solve the problem, the company is testing a possible solution to that anxiety-inducing problem in the form of “private like counts.”

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram for Facebook, announced on Tuesday at the annual Facebook F8 conference that Instagram would begin experimenting with “private like counts,” a design feature that obscures the number of likes on a photo or video in a person’s Instagram feed. The thinking behind the decision, Mosseri said, was to make Instagram feel less competitive, and hopefully, spur more people to use the app more often.

Your Instagram feed may make like counts private. The company will begin testing the change this week.
Your Instagram feed may make like counts private. The company will begin testing the change this week.

“The owner can see how many people liked their photo, but only if they asked,” Mosseri said. “It’s because we want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about.” The feature was first revealed earlier this month by Jane Wong on her Twitter account.

Mosseri noted that people on Instagram seem to feel that they can only connect with each other “if they feel comfortable expressing themselves,” hinting at the how Instagram’s original, simple user experience — take a photo and post it — has become too stressful for users, a well-documented cultural mood and scientifically proven phenomenon. As such, Instagram introduced the “Stories” feature, where content only lasts for 24 hours, which is now the most popular feature on the app, Mosseri indicated. Many of Instagram’s new features introduced on Tuesday are naturally centered around getting more of its 1 billion users to use it more often.

In the mock-up shown Tuesday (video above) follower counts are less prominent in a user’s profile: Beneath a the biography in the experimental profile, one line is dedicated to showing approximate numbers of followers and accounts followed. Instagram is also testing new anti-bullying features, like nudging people who make aggressive comments, offering an “away” mode for users who want a break (“maybe you switched high schools; maybe you just went through a break-up,” Mosseri said), or limiting interactions from other specific users.

If you’ve ever posted “feeling cute, might delete later” on Instagram — with the idea that you’ve deleted it later because it didn’t get enough likes — the company wants you to feel cute, for longer. Or, you could just delete Instagram. That’s always an option.

Media via Facebook