Skip to main content

Instagram’s improved search could help close the gap with TikTok

Instagram’s improved search could help close the gap with TikTok

/

How search works and what it will be able to do next

Share this story

Image: Instagram

Instagram plans to more prominently feature photos and videos in search results in the future, Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced on Wednesday. The change could show the grid of photos and videos a keyword search can pull up alongside results for accounts and hashtags, not dissimilar to how TikTok displays results.

The search tweak is part of “a series of improvements designed for inspiration and discovery,” according to Mosseri. The company has used keyword search as a way to offer visual results — certain terms can pull up pages of suggested images — but Instagram’s new plan will give those more prominence. Mosseri writes that searching with a term like “space” will pull up suggested photo and video results along with traditional accounts and hashtags, encouraging more exploration. The visual results will still live behind a tap of a keyword, but they should be more prominent and common. (Mosseri demos the tweaked search experience at around 3:30 in this video.)

TikTok’s layout for search results, featuring visual results first.
TikTok’s layout for search results, featuring visual results first.

Instagram’s current keyword search is pretty hit or miss, however; it doesn’t always pull up results universally or with relevant collections of photos. That’s why Mosseri says the company is also expanding the number of terms that will pull up results, starting with English and then building out from there. When asked, Instagram wasn’t able to provide a specific launch date for the search improvements.

Instagram’s current account and hastag-focused search results.
Instagram’s current account and hastag-focused search results.
Image: Instagram

Even without more visuals or new keywords in the mix yet, Instagram’s main criterion for what results it shows is relevance, according to Mosseri. The company has a series of “signals” it considers when showing results, listed below in order of importance:

Your text in Search. The text you enter in the search bar is by far the most important signal for Search. We try to match what you type with relevant usernames, bios, captions, hashtags and places.

Your activity. This includes accounts you follow, posts you’ve viewed, and how you’ve interacted with accounts in the past. We usually show accounts and hashtags you follow or visit higher than those you don’t.

Information about the search results. When there are a lot of potential results, we also look at popularity signals. These include the number of clicks, likes, shares and follows for a particular account, hashtag or place.

Those same suggestions apply to how your content shows up as well. The platform looks at the text in your Instagram handle and bio, your location, and the captions on individual posts to determine if your content is relevant for a given search. The company also attempts to filter out content that violates its Recommendations Guidelines, including sensitive topics like violence or semi-nudity. You don’t have to go back far to see how Instagram’s handling of these issues has provoked concern in the past.

Both of the improvements to search should make Instagram more usable and maybe more enticing to keep clicking through. The surface-level similarities to TikTok might not be a mistake either: Mosseri has openly discussed the post-photo-sharing era Instagram is entering with an embrace of video and more suggested content.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed An hour ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

J
External Link
Jess WeatherbedAn hour ago
Won’t anyone think of the billionaires?

Forbes reports that rising inflation and falling stock prices have collectively cost members of the Forbes 400 US rich list $500 billion in 2022 with tech tycoons suffering the biggest losses.

Jeff Bezos (worth $151 billion) lost $50 billion, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (worth a collective $182b) lost almost $60b, Mark Zuckerberg (worth $57.7b) lost $76.8b, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (worth $4.5b) lost $10.4b. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (worth $83b) lost $13.5b while his ex-boss Bill Gates (worth $106b) lost $28b, albeit $20b of that via charity donations.


T
Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.