- Instagram, the wildly popular photo- and video-sharing app owned by Facebook, is testing out a major change: hiding “likes.”
- The move has been controversial, and Instagram leader Adam Mosseri has explained by saying, “Our interest in hiding likes really is just to depressurize Instagram for young people.”
- But, according to a new report from CNBC, there’s another, more business-focused reason Instagram is dropping likes: because Facebook believes it will get users to post more.
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Instagram is making a huge move: It’s dropping “likes” from the wildly popular photo- and video-sharing app for some users in an ambitious test.
You’ll still be able to see the likes on your own posts, just not those of others, a move that Instagram head Adam Mosseri said is intended to “depressurize Instagram for young people.”
So the logic goes: If you can’t see likes on other peoples’ posts, you won’t feel bad that your posts have fewer likes than theirs. “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health,” Mosseri said at Wired25 in mid-November.
But that explanation isn’t the full story, according to a new CNBC report. Apparently Facebook’s growth and data science teams believe that hiding likes may actually increase user engagement.
In short: Without likes, people may post more.
More than just posting more, the theory goes, users will stay engaged with the app for longer periods of time – thus, boosting Facebook’s potential ad revenue from Instagram users.
Instagram declined to respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Though Mosseri has acknowledged the potential for this effect before, the explanation for removing likes from Instagram has repeatedly focused on efforts to make the platform less toxic.
“It’s about young people,” Mosseri said at Wired25 in mid-November. “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it more of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with the people that they love, the things that inspire them. But it’s really focused on young people.”
Notably, for now, it’s just a test, and the company hasn’t announced more official plans for a permanent change. Even still, there’s already been one unintended consequence: Instagram’s most valuable users – influencers and celebrities – are threatening to leave if the platform eliminates likes.
Mosseri has acknowledged that the change could have other consequences, like increasing user engagement – but that’s not the point, he said.
“It will likely effect [sic] how much some people engage on Instagram, probably liking a bit less and posting a bit more,”Mosseri said on Twitter, “but the main thing we’re trying to learn is how this effects how people feel.”