Instagram is opening up its search functionality to allow people to search through other peoples’ followers. Mashable was first to notice the new search functionality in the ‘Followers’ section, noting there’s also a new search bar in the ‘Following’ section for quickly finding people your friends and/or colleagues are following.
Here is what it looks like in action:
The announcement of this feature is already causing a fair bit of controversy, with people calling it “stalker-ish”. I understand how some may make that association, but I suggest taking a step back for a minute and you might see things a bit differently.
Objectively speaking, Instagram is not revealing any new information about its users. Instagram users have always had the ability to scroll through another’s followers. The new update is simply making the information more accessible.
If people want to associate the new search bars with stalker tools, that’s their prerogative. However, it’s not straying far from what has become the norm for social networks. Facebook, for instance, allows people to search through others’ friends lists and there has hardly even been a mention of that fact when discussing Instagram’s pending update.
Instagram’s new search capabilities are still being tested and have only been rolled out to a small group of users at this point. There’s no word on when this may be rolled out more widely. If anything this could end up being a good move for the company. Engagement on Instagram is way down compared to this time last year, and this could very well be a way to bring back some of its lapsed users.
At the moment, the general sentiment from every day Instagram users is that this is will be a welcome new feature. Tech blogs have not been so positive toward the change, especially following the news of algorithmic timelines. That criticism is understandable, but the number one thing Instagram should be focused on right now is increasing engagement amongst current users, and achieving a steady flow of new users sign ups.
It’s too early to tell whether this is a good or bad move; that will be determined next time Facebook and/or Instagram reveal their quarterly data.
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