Instagram wants to show you the best videos without completely destroying the sanctity of your main feed, so today it overhauled the Explore page with a slew of new video channels. Most importantly, there’s a personalized “Videos You Might Like” feed that draws from across the network. There’s also themed, hand-curated channels, like one for Coachella, and feature spotlights on specific creators, like the ones Instagram started showing in January.
The update is coming to iOS and Android today, but will only be available in the U.S. for now (with other countries coming soon).
When Instagram announced it would switch to an algorithmically sorted feed last month, many users freaked out, and some pushed followers to turn on notifications about their posts. But by putting more of the focus on the Explore page, Instagram could gain the benefits of algorithmic curation without disturbing what’s familiar as drastically.
Instagram has been gradually beefing up the Explore tab over the years, growing to be more than just what’s Popular in 2012, personalizing the photos it showed in 2014 and adding Trends and places search a year ago. Still, it’s missing what seems like an obviously huge opportunity: “Nearby.” The ability to discover local ‘Grammers showing the beauty around you is something I’ve been requesting for four years.
The new channels are inserted amongst the thumbnails of photos to check out on the Explore page. When opened, they cleverly auto-play one video after another without looping to create a lean-back viewing experience. That’s quite similar to the recent Snapchat auto-advance update and the Watch button on Vine that launched yesterday.
Social networks are clearly seeing the massive rise of mobile video viewing, and are trying to capitalize on it with dedicated ways to watch. Instagram’s parent company Facebook just launched a special video tab with channels of its own, though these are more like tags than purposefully curated channels.
If Instagram can ingratiate users to watching organic videos, it could make video ads easier to swallow. And by giving top creators higher views counts, which it recently started showing, it can recruit more of them to its platform, drawing in their fan bases who will inevitably see ads. When asked whether it plans to put video ads in the new channels or let brands pay to create their own sponsored channels, Instagram’s spokesperson said “we have nothing to share at this time.” So basically, maybe.
Mobile video consumption is no longer something that just serendipitously happens as we go through our day. Faster connections and bigger screens have made watching much more delightful. Thanks to new interfaces like Instagram’s channels, it will be easy to curl up on the couch or in bed and watch clip after clip.