The move was likely made in an effort meet advertising demand for Facebook, according to a source familiar with the matter. The social network owns Instagram and says it is maxed out on ad inventory. Facebook rolled out ads to its 1.2 billion users on its Messenger platform in July for similar reasons.
It's a significant change for Instagram, one that borrows from a similar feature from Facebook. The end result might translate into people discovering new content, or, see posts on the platform they deem annoying. The company says there is an option to "temporarily hide" the new feature, but mentions nothing about turning it off altogether.
The news itself was quietly announced through Instagram's help center earlier this week, and it wasn't shared with members of the press, either, but was first spotted by TechCrunch reporter Sarah Perez on Wednesday. Instagram did not respond to an initial request for comment.
Josh von Scheiner, founder and creative director at social media agency VonShine Industries, says Instagram's new feature triggers only when the user has gone through the rest of their feed.
"It's a play to get people to spend more time on the app, view more content and thus, be exposed to more advertising," he says. "Facebook, if it needs to grow, needs to serve more ads, but their inventory is maxed out. This is a way of creating more inventory without increasing the frequency of ads."
Although some may fret, von Scheiner believes the new feature will go over well once it's fully rolled out. "If their algorithms work, which they usually do, it'll show good content," he says.
Instagram has seen tremendous growth since copying Snapchat's popular "stories" feature, which allows people to share videos, pictures that delete after 24 hours. The platform has some 800 million users, more than twice as many as it had in 2015.