The Feed Is Dying

Excerpt from this article:

The feed is dying. The reverse-chronological social media feed — the way you’ve read Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (which is to say, the internet) at various points over the last decade, updates organized according to the time they were posted, refreshed at the top of the screen — no longer really makes sense. The unfiltered informational cascade that defined the internet of the 2010s is going the way of the front-page-style web portal: It’s an outdated way of processing online information. The way we consume social media is being transformed and tinkered with as Silicon Valley tries to wring as much engagement, attention, and money out of it as possible. The feed is dying, and we feel shocked by its death — but we shouldn’t.

The feed arose as a simple way to take advantage of the new possibilities of the web. How should information be sorted when it’s being created continually, and not in packaged issues or editions? Early on, putting content in a long list according to the time it was posted made the most sense. It’s the easiest way to organize anything, ever: You just make a pile, and the oldest stuff is at the bottom. It was a perfect paradigm for social networks: It’s transparent, so you don’t need to explain to your users how it works. It fits nicely on a smartphone. Best of all, it encourages people to constantly refresh, which reads as a certain kind of engagement.

Unfortunately, chronological order doesn’t scale well.