During Facebook’s annual F8 software developer conference in San Jose, California, today, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, Instagram announced it is running a test in Canada starting later this week that hides the total number of likes on photos and videos.
“Later this week, we’re running a test in Canada that removes the total number of likes on photos and video views in Feed, Permalink pages and Profile,” an Instagram spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get.” The small percentage of Canadian users in the test will see a notice atop their feed warning them of “a change to how you see Likes.” The announcement came alongside a slew of new product debuts at Facebook’s F8 conference.
It’s unclear if the company will roll the test out more broadly or not. Although likes can be mood-boosting and encouraging to users but they can also bring them down, especially if the content isn’t performing well enough. At the same time, likes can incentivize less interesting content and facilitate like-garnering posts, like nudity, food porn, and other classic Instagram-bait scenes. Getting rid of likes could fundamentally change the platform.
“Likes are powerful because they are immediate feedback,” said Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. “In a way, likes give you the same kind of hit like a gambler gets at a slot machine.”
All we can say is that a major new era in the story of Instagram — which in recent months lost its two co-founders who left abruptly over differences with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — is about to begin