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Instagram’s Secret to Perfecting New Features with Rollouts

feature flagging_instagram_title

Have you noticed that Instagram seems to change every time you login? You come across an awesome new functionality, but then it disappears for a few days before making a comeback. It’s not just you experiencing these mysterious changes, but it’s very likely that not all users are experiencing the change at the same time. This means that Instagram has been testing a variety of new features using feature flagging.

Learn Mobile Experimentation and Feature Flagging best practices to create a data-informed feedback loop in our free Mobile Experimentation Guide.

Feature Flagging?

Feature flagging is extremely popular among tech giants – we’ve recently written about the way that Google Chrome and Spotify are using the technique. What’s all the buzz about? By releasing new features through a rollout, companies are able to gather feedback from a small, specific group of users before deploying app updates. This helps them take calculated risks and perfect features before they are released to the entire user base. Other benefits include the ability to shut off faulty features, control who sees the new features and test variations.

We’ve noticed three major changes that Instagram has been experimenting with lately. 

Direct Messages

Feature rollouts - Direct Messages

On the original direct messages page, a user had the option to send photos in a DM with the quick selection of the camera icon. In the variation,  users have the ability to star conversations instead of sending a photo. When a conversation is starred, it’s placed in a new DM tab so users can quickly navigate to their conversations with top contacts.

Recommended Post Feed

Instagram Rollouts - ReccomendedIn the original feed, the only photos shown to a user are sponsored posts or content from accounts they follow. To find fresh content, users would have to use the discover page or the following tab. In the new variation, there is a section on the home feed with recommended posts from accounts a user should follow, based on the content they currently interact with.

In December, this feature was one that we noticed appearing on and off, but it has now stuck and been applied to all user feeds. This indicates that the feature proved to be engaging enough throughout the rollout to permanently integrate.

Photo Comments

Instagram rollouts - Comment

The original Instagram feed required a user to click on the comments section twice to leave a comment on a photo. In the rollout variation, users can comment directly on the photo from the home feed. This feature improves the user’s experience, because they don’t have to leave the home feed to leave a comment, then click again to return. Less clicking reduces friction in the user experience.

The Benefits of Rollouts

If you, like Instagram, are looking to experiment with new features to improve your user’s experience, consider releasing them in rollout format to take advantage of the benefits:

Have you been getting any of these Instagram updates, or any others that we haven’t included here? We’d love to hear what you’re thinking and seeing!