Instagram has internally floated the idea of a small design change that would have a huge impact on the service. Leaked screenshots show mockups of Instagram in which the Like counts on photos and videos are hidden from public view.
TechCrunch reports that the test was discovered by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, who has broken news on a number of Instagram features before they had officially been confirmed or launched.
Wong discovered the design tweak in Instagram’s Android code, and she managed to use the discovery to generate a few screenshots showing what the result of the change would be.
Instagram is testing hiding like count from audiences,
as stated in the app: "We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get" pic.twitter.com/MN7woHowVN
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 18, 2019
“We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your posts get,” an Instagram message packaged with the test states. “During this test, only the person who shared a post will see the total number of likes it gets.”
The screenshot shows posts that no longer display Like count, but viewers can still see the profile pictures and usernames of others who have liked the post.
Instagram has confirmed that the design tweak idea is real but says it was simply an internal design test that isn’t being publicly tested among real users yet.
“We’re not testing this at the moment, but exploring ways to reduce pressure on Instagram is something we’re always thinking about,” an Instagram spokesperson tells TechCrunch.
As the Instagram “influencer” industry is set to balloon to $10 billion by 2020, there has been more and more stories of users obsessing over (or even cheating) numbers in order to obtain fame and fortune. While removing Likes from public view is a tiny design change, it would dramatically alter the way the photo-sharing app functions by reducing users’ ability to compare their influence and popularity with each other. But there’s currently no indication that Instagram is planning to roll out this change anytime soon.