Instagram is making it easier than ever to discover new places around the world.
In an update today for those living in the United States, Instagram has debuted a redesigned “Explore” tab that surfaces trending topics based on popular hashtags. You can also finally search for photos taken at specific locations, like a remote city in Greece or a national park.
I’m particularly excited for location search because it’s going to make Instagram my go-to app for finding travel destinations.
The search tab in Instagram lets you sort by people, tags, and now places. So if you’re looking for places to go in California’s Yosemite National Park, you can view the location on a map with all of the photos that were taken there, along with what Instagram considers to be the “top” photos from the area.
This is going to be huge for a lot of people like me that use Instagram as a location discovery tool. Before today’s update, I would screenshot interesting restaurants or places I saw in my feed for reference later. Now I can just search for whatever I want at will, like a restaurant that I want to check out in New York.
Location search is great, but Instagram shouldn’t try to be Twitter
Surfacing the best photos for a specific location is just one example of how Instagram is creating more of a curated experience in the Explore tab.
You’ll see new collections of photos based around themes, like ancient ruins or “glimmering islands.” Instagram will also present lists of photographers you might want to follow, which is a resurrection of the recommended user list that many early Instagramers were fortunate to be part of.
Instagram is trying to make a play at Twitter by showing trending topics in real time, but I’m not convinced that it will do well.
The main difference between Instagram and Twitter is that a lot of people on Instagram don’t post what they’re doing immediately. I can’t remember the last time I posted a photo on Instagram within even a few minutes of taking it. Many times I post hours or even days later.
There’s the popular “latergram” hashtag that’s commonly used for when photos aren’t posted immediately, and since Instagram lets you assign a location to a post based on the photo file’s metadata, you don’t have to be physically near where you originally took the photo to make it appear like you are in the moment you post it.
As much as Instagram may want to be a real time news and events curator, it’s just not used that way by all of its users. Twitter is inherently real time in the way it’s designed, but sharing photos is a different kind of experience.
That’s not to say that Instagram’s new Explore tab will be useless for people, but for now, I’m much more excited about how it’s going to make my travelling easier.