Instagram expands test of removing public ‘like’ counts globally
Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram today announced that it’s expanding its testing of removing public “like” counts globally after launching a trial in select countries earlier this year.
The idea behind removing like counts, announced at Facebook’s annual developer conference in April, is ostensibly to assist with mental health and bullying. Removing like counts, Instagram argues, removes pressure on some users when it comes to how many likes they receive “so you can focus on sharing the things you love.”
“Starting today, we’re expanding our test of private like counts globally,” Instagram announced on Twitter. “If you’re in the test, you’ll no longer see the total number of likes and views on photos and videos posted to Feed unless they’re your own.”
That users can still see their own like count but not others’ is notable. It makes sense with regard to bullying, since a user would no longer be in a public race with peers to see who can garner the most likes.
“It’s about young people,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said last week. “The idea is to try to ‘depressurize’ Instagram, make it less of a competition and give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them.”
Although the move was generally welcomed by the tech press, the same can’t be said for all Instagram users, particularly so-called “influencers” who trade off the popularity of their posts for sponsorship and other money-making opportunities.
As was noted back in July, the true motivation behind the move is being questioned. Some wonder if its nothing more than virtue signaling, while others question whether the move might be financially related.
“Users voiced beliefs that Instagram’s planned overhaul is … a marred attempt to stifle entrepreneurship and stop users from making money on their platform — without Instagram at least receiving a larger slice of the profits,” the Daily Mail reported. The theory is that by removing counts, a key signal used by companies looking to sponsor influencers, companies will stop directly investing in users and look to advertise on Instagram itself.
Whether true or not, Instagram does recognize that it’s a concern among some:
In addition, we understand that like counts are important for many creators, and we are actively thinking through ways for creators to communicate value to their partners.
— Instagram (@instagram) November 14, 2019
The expansion of the test will not affect all users but is the last stage before Instagram makes a decision as to whether to remove like counts for all users. That decision will likely be made in the first half of 2020.
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