The Explore page on Instagram is the magnifying glass symbol at the bottom of the app. When opened it creates a page of pictures and videos that Instagram think you would be interested in to help you discover new accounts. Instagram has now released a blog post on exactly how this page works to bring you the most relevant content.
According to the app, over half the Instagram community visit the Explore page every month. The page is run using an artificial intelligence (AI) system that is based on a “highly efficient 3-part ranking funnel that extracts 65 billion features and makes 90 million model predictions every second.”
“We needed the ability to conduct rapid experimentation at scale, we needed to obtain a stronger signal on the breadth of people’s interests, and we needed a computationally efficient way to ensure that our recommendations were both high quality and fresh,” they said in a post.
Since Instagram is such a big platform, sorting through all the content to bring you exactly what you’re interested in to bring you the customised Explore page is a massive challenge. The first way Instagram navigates this is by focusing on accounts that could interest you rather than specific posts. This serves a dual purpose of creating a smaller pool to work from and showing you accounts you might be interested in following.
Instagram has also adapted the machine learning method of “word embedding” which studies how words appear in text to measure how they are related. Instagram uses a similar process to see how two accounts are related to each other.
The system then looks at “seed accounts” which are accounts the user has interacted with by liking or saving content. It identifies similar accounts to these, selects 500 pieces of content from them, filters anything inappropriate and ranks what remains. The final top 25 posts are what is sent to the Explore page.
This means that the content on your explore page is determined in a big way by what you actively interact with.
“One of the most exciting parts of building Explore is the ongoing challenge of finding new and interesting ways to help our community discover the most interesting and relevant content on Instagram. We’re continuously evolving Instagram Explore, whether by adding media formats like Stories and entry points to new types of content, such as shopping posts and IGTV videos,” they said in the post.