The company altered the feed so that it went sideways rather than upwards, fundamentally changing the way the feed has worked ever since Instagram first arrived. The major update – which would have been perhaps the biggest change to Instagram ever – was so widely despised that numerous users suggested the app is now dead.
But very shortly after, the change appeared to be reverted and the feed went back to normal. And now it appears all of that happened by accident.
“Sorry about that, this was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri wrote on Twitter, alongside an awkward-looking emoji. The change went to “a few orders of magnitude more people than intended”, he wrote.
He said the change “should already be rolled back”. If it is still appearing, he told users they should “simply restart your app and you should be good to go”, Mr Mosseri advised.
The alteration was just intended as a test, he said, giving no indication that it would be rolling out widely and properly any time in the near future.
An Instagram statement suggested the change was a "bug", rather than an accident, but both Mr Mosseri and the company's spokespeople were presumably referring to the same incident.
“Due to a bug, some users saw a change to the way their feed appears today," the statement read. "We quickly fixed the issue and feed is back to normal. We apologise for any confusion."
Mr Mosseri only recently took up his position as Instagram’s boss, though he has worked for a long time at Facebook, most recently as the head of its News Feed. He was moved into his new role after Instagram’s founders left the company, reportedly in the wake of disagreements over its future direction.
The roll-out of the change to the feed had already appeared strange: Instagram does usually allow small groups of people to test out new features, before slowly rolling them out to everyone who uses it. But this time around the update appeared to arrive on everyone’s phone all at once, dropping rapidly on Thursday afternoon UK time.
When the change happened, it came with a screen that explained why it had arrived and how to use it. That suggested the change was not the result of a bug or that it had happened by accident, but presumably the same screen was only meant to be seen by the small number of people who would get access to the altered feed.
Soon after, the new feed started reverting back to normal, before Instagram chose to announce that the update had been a mistake.
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