I don’t work at Instagram. These are just my opinions as a user (I don’t even have the update yet, just basing this on some twitter videos).
Some of you might already got the update, but basically Instagram is changing the way you consume content in their mobile apps (at least), ditching the classic timeline into a more gallery-like format.
These are some of the reasons I believe this to be a step in the right direction.
Right/Left navigation is here already
We are already used to this. This is just “surprising” right now because we were use to a classic timeline like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Instagram until some days ago.
But, in fact, sideways temporal navigation has been here for some time. Instagram stories work that way. You want to see the next person’s story? Swipe right. Want to go back? Swipe left.
In other services it is not quite the same, but still temporal navigation is sideways. If you wan’t to advance some seconds in a YouTube video? Double tap right edge of your phone.
As users, we will eventually get used to considering left/right as “time traveling”.
No taps to see content
Want to see the comments of a photo? Swipe down a bit. Want to go back to the picture? Swipe up.
Navigating to specific “pages” in a mobile app feels less continuous than having the whole content displayed and just “discovering” the unseen parts with scrolling.
Easier to determine engagement
This might no impact users directly but I’m positive that it will affect future product decisions, therefore impacting users directly. Currently, it is a bit hard to determine which post you are actually engaging with and how long with the vertical-scroll timeline.
After you’ve gone past a post, you might take a peek on the suggested comments but part of the next post is being showed already (maybe even more than half of it). Which post are you currently engaging with? How can a computer tell what are you looking at if both things are in the screen? The new type of navigation removes that problem completely. If you are engaging with a post, it is very easy to determine which one and for how long, as it is the only thing in your screen.
This data is relevant to companies like Instagram. This data makes your timeline better (some people disagree). This data fuels AB tests.
Preventing dead ends
Ever got shared a particular post by a friend? Once you click that link you are viewing that post and that post only. If you want to continue using Instagram you need to go back to your timeline, or go to someplace else.
With this new type of navigation there are no dead ends. If you get a post shared to you, just swipe right and you can see what other content Instagram puts there for you (this might not be true right now, as I said I don’t have the update, but it sure opens the door for it).
Every post is a timeline view. People spend time in the timeline view. Good for business 💸.
It seems that Instagram rolled back the changes and blamed it on a bug (even before I could publish this post). I still think it would have been a step in the right direction.