Instagram, the popular application for sharing photos and videos owned by Facebook, is trying a major change: hide "likes".
The move has been controversial, and Instagram leader Adam Mosseri has explained by saying: "Our interest in hiding the" likes "is really depressurizing Instagram for young people."
But, according to a new CNBC report, there is another more business-centric reason why Instagram is removing Like: because Facebook believes it will make users post more.
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Instagram is making a great move: it is dropping "like" the popular application to share photos and videos for some users in an ambitious test.
You can still see the likes in their own publications, but not in those of others, a movement that Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said he intends to "depressurize Instagram for young people."
So the logic says: if you can't see the "likes" in other people's posts, you won't feel bad because your posts have less "likes" than theirs. "We will make decisions that harm the business if they help the well-being and health of people," Mosseri said at Wired25 in mid-November.
But that explanation is not the whole story, according to a new CNBC report. Apparently, Facebook's data science and growth teams believe that hiding "likes" can actually increase user participation.
In short: without liking, people can post more.
According to the theory, more than just posting more, users will remain involved with the application for longer periods of time, which will increase the possible Facebook advertising revenue of Instagram users.
Instagram declined to respond to the request for comments from Business Insider.
Although Mosseri has recognized the potential of this effect before, the explanation for removing likes from Instagram has repeatedly focused on efforts to make the platform less toxic.
"It's about young people," Mosseri said on Wired25 in mid-November. "The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it more of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love, the things that inspire them. But it's really focused on young people."
Notably, for now, it's just a test, and the company has not announced any more official plans for permanent change. Even so, there has already been an unwanted consequence: the most valuable Instagram users, influential people and celebrities, threaten to leave if the platform eliminates the likes.
Mosseri has acknowledged that the change could have other consequences, such as increasing user participation, but that is not the point, he said.
"It is likely that it affects [sic] the number of people participating in Instagram, they probably like it a little less and post a little more," Mosseri said on Twitter, "but the main thing we are trying to learn is how this affects how the people feel. "