Instagram Promises Improved Search

June 15, 2015

Frustrated with the abysmal search functionality at Instagram? Rejoice, for Wired tells us that, soon, “Better Search Will Transform How You Use Instagram.” Instagram’s cofounder Mike Krieger admitted that it is currently difficult for users to discover many photos that would interest them, but also asserted the company knows it must do better. Why, then, wasn’t search a priority earlier in the company’s history, and why are they talking about this now? Writer Julia Greenberg informs us:

“All that could soon change, given that Instagram has Facebook on its team. The social media titan, which acquired Instagram in 2012, is targeting Google itself as it develops a robust search system to make both its own platform and the whole web searchable through its own app. But while Facebook users post links, status updates, news, opinions, and photos, Instagram is almost completely visual. That means Instagram needs to teach its search engine to see. Krieger said his team has worked on a project to better understand how to automate sight. ‘Computer vision and machine learning have really started to take off, but for most people the whole idea of what is a computer seeing when it’s looking at an image is relatively obscure,’ Krieger said.”

Ah, prodded by their Facebook overlords; makes sense. Instagram isn’t ready to hand the site over to algorithms entirely, though. Their human editorial team still works to help users find the best images. Apparently, they feel humans are more qualified to choose photos with the most emotional impact (go figure). Krieger sees Instagram developing into a “storytelling” destination, the place users to go connect with world events through images: “the real-time view into the world,” as Krieger puts it. We agree that implementing an effective search system should help toward that goal.

Cynthia Murrell, June 15, 2015

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