Instagram is testing a feature to notify users when the app is having technical issues, whether they only affect part of the app, or take it down completely as was the case recently. The new outage message will show up in a user’s Activity Feed when a technical issue is detected at Instagram, with a more detailed summary available by tapping the notification.
“Through conversations with our community and extensive research,” Instagram writes, “we know how confusing it can be when temporary issues happen on Instagram.”
It’s unclear why extensive research was necessary to ascertain this frustration, but we can dive into that on another occasion.
Last week’s Facebook outage was all-encompassing for the company, leaving users across its platforms feeling underwhelmed and helpless. It was easy enough to tell how far-reaching the down time was by logging into Twitter, but Facebook’s own communication that day was incredibly minimal. A quick tweet or two — that’s it.
This feature should, indeed, minimize confusion around when Instagram and related services are down. It’s testing in the U.S. right now and will expand it to more people “if it makes sense to.”
Long overdue — Instagram says it won’t be sending out one of these new notifications every time the app goes down; it’ll only do so when the company sees a large number of users confused and looking for answers. Instagram doesn’t often go down for hours at a time like it did last week — but this still feels late. It’s a little quality-of-life improvement that could’ve been implemented before getting to this point.
This kind of quick heads up for outages would also be useful — even more so than on Instagram, perhaps — for Facebook and WhatsApp. Billions of people around the world rely on Facebook and WhatsApp for communication with family, friends, and businesses. Hopefully these Facebook-owned platforms take Instagram’s notes and implement their own outage notifications.
Account status — Alongside the outage notification, Instagram announced this week a tool called “Account Status,” which is meant to provide a one-stop-shop for users to understand actions they’ve taken that break Instagram’s terms of service. Instagram says it will, for now, only display instances that threaten a user’s account being disabled. Users can also request a review of this content if they believe a decision should be appealed.
The company plans to add expand the Account Status feature to explain to users “how their content is being distributed and recommended across different parts of Instagram.” While we certainly appreciate Instagram’s attempts to make transparent algorithm data available to its users, it seems unlikely that a quick summary — the likes of which you’d find on this new Account Status page — won’t really be all that enlightening.