Instagram has been experimenting with hiding like counts for nearly two years. But the company has said very little publicly about its plans for the feature or what it has learned from the long-running test. Now the company is updating the effort and making a new tweak to the experiment.
With the change, which like previous iterations, will only roll out to a small subset of Instagram users, the app will give users the ability to choose which likes they want to hide. Now, they’ll have the option to hide like counts from their own posts (so their followers won’t see them) or hide like counts on posts from everyone else (effectively stripping like counts out of the feed entirely). Users will also have the option to keep likes appearing typically, an option that could respond to the widespread criticism when Instagram briefly and “unintentionally” flipped the feature on for people last month.
Instagram hasn’t indicated if it intends to make hiding likes a more permanent feature. However, its executives have repeatedly spoken positively about the effort to “de-pressurize” the app, particularly younger users. The latest update comes as Instagram is also exploring a new version of its app younger than 13. Though that project is still in the early stages, some lawmakers have already pushed the company to likes, making the app more addictive.
Facebook will also test a version of this experiment separately and plans to bring a “similar experience” to its central platform. The social network has tried out hiding likes, but it hasn’t rolled it out more widely until now. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company “will learn from this new small test and have more to share soon.”