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Instagram users are losing millions of followers due to a bug

Instagram users are reporting a drop in their follower counts as a systemwide bug causes some accounts to lose as many as 3 million followers.
Instagram users are reporting a drop in their follower counts as a systemwide bug causes some accounts to lose as many as 3 million followers.

Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Several Instagram users on Wednesday woke up to find their follower counts significantly decreased. 

Many of the app’s most popular celebrities experienced a significant drop in followers due to a glitch. 

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now,” Instagram said in a tweet. “We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

The Instagram bug has eaten away at the follower counts of many of the site’s top users. For example, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber lost 1.9 million and 1.7 million followers respectively.

And they weren’t the only ones. Ariana Grande’s account dropped from 145 million followers to 143 million. Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez also saw huge drops of more than 2 million followers each.

Along with mainstream celebrities, The Verge reports that several popular YouTube creators experienced big drops in their follower counts as well. 

“Why did I just lose over half a million followers, Instagram,” tweeted James Charles, a prominent YouTube creator who currently has 14.3 million followers on Instagram. 

The follower drop is affecting more than just Instagram’s biggest accounts as well. Users with just hundreds or thousands of followers are noticing a significant loss too. 

Many users first assumed that Instagram was undergoing a systemwide bot purge. Many social media platforms routinely sweep the platform for bots and other spam accounts in order to more accurately portray the number of real users on the service. For example,  Twitter‘s most recent purge last year attracted lots of attention as high-profile users like Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian lost millions of followers. 

But Instagram’s official statement makes it clear that this isn’t the case. It’s currently unknown whether the glitch is just affecting the actual count number or if the issue has caused an actual mass unfollowing across the platform.

Some Instagram users are already reporting that their accounts have been updated with the lost followers being returned to their follower count.

Mashable has reached out to Instagram and will update when we hear back.

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Instagram confirms that a bug is causing follower counts to change

Instagram confirmed today that an issue has been causing some accounts’ follower numbers to change. Users began noticing the bug about 10 hours ago and the drastic drop in followers caused some to wonder if Instagram was culling inactive and fake accounts, as part of its fight against spam.

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company said on Twitter.

The Instagram bug comes a few hours after a Twitter bug messed with the Like count on tweets, causing users to wonder if accounts were being suspended en masse or if they were just very bad at tweeting.

Instagram seems to be testing direct messaging on web

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You could be getting Instagram DMs on your desktop soon.
You could be getting Instagram DMs on your desktop soon.

Image: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

There’s no dearth of messaging platforms on the web, but Instagram DMs have likely become a big part of your online life.

A prototype, spotted by software engineer Jane Manchun Wong, shows the platform making moves toward making its direct messaging service, Direct, accessible via your browser.

Given how many of our interactions happen on Instagram these days, it makes sense to make Direct available outside of the app. If it turns out to be a thing, Direct appears to be available for both desktop and mobile.

Shortly after posting the screenshots, Wong added on Twitter access to the direct messaging feature was disabled. You might remember Instagram also has broken out Direct in its own app.

Launched in 2013, Instagram’s web version has been much more feature-sparse in comparison to the app. You can’t upload posts for one, and while you can like and comment on posts, you can’t react or message in response to Stories.

The prototype comes a few weeks after Facebook revealed it was looking to unify the backend of Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. 

That would help make sending messages across these platforms easier, but it raises regulation and privacy questions, and is a significant departure from the independence that was a sacrosanct part of these different platforms.

Mashable has contacted Instagram for comment.

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Instagram is now testing a web version of Direct messages

Insta-chat addicts, rejoice. You could soon be trading memes and emojis from your computer. Instagram is internally testing a web version of Instagram Direct messaging that lets people chat without the app. If, or more likely, when this rolls out publicly, users on a desktop or laptop PC or Mac, a non-Android or iPhone, or that access Instagram via a mobile web browser will be able to privately message other Instagrammers.

Instagram web DMs was one of the features I called for in a product wishlist I published in December alongside a See More Like This button for the feed and an upload quality indicator so your Stories don’t look crappy if you’re on a slow connection.

A web version could make Instagram Direct a more full-fledged SMS alternative rather than just a tacked-on feature for discussing the photo and video app’s content. Messages are a massive driver of engagement that frequently draws people back to an app, and knowing friends can receive them anywhere could get users sending more. While Facebook doesn’t monetize Instagram Direct itself, it could get users browsing through more ads while they wait for replies.

Given Facebook’s own chat feature started on the web before going mobile and getting its own Messenger app, and WhatsApp launched a web portal in 2015 followed by desktop clients in 2016, it’s sensible for Instagram Direct to embrace the web too. It could also pave the way for Facebook’s upcoming unification of the backend infrastructure for Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct that should expand encryption and allow cross-app chat, as reported by the New York Times’ Mike Isaac.

Mobile reverse-engineering specialist and frequent TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong alerted us to Instagram’s test. It’s not available to users yet, as it’s still being internally “dogfooded” — used heavily by employees to identify bugs or necessary product changes. But she was able to dig past security and access the feature from both a desktop computer and mobile web browser.

In the current design, Direct on the web is available from a Direct arrow icon in the top right of the screen. The feature looks like it will use an Instagram.com/direct/…. URL structure. If the feature becomes popular, perhaps Facebook will break it out with its own Direct destination website similar to https://www.messenger.com which launched in 2015. Instagram began testing a standalone Direct app last year, but it’s yet to be officially launched and doesn’t seem exceedingly popular.

Instagram did not respond to requests for comment before press time. The company rarely provides a statement on internal features in development until they’re being externally tested on the public, at which point it typically tells us “We’re always testing ways to improve the Instagram experience.”

After cloning Snapchat Stories to create Instagram Stories, the Facebook-owned app decimated Snap’s growth rate. That left Snapchat to focus on premium video and messaging. Last year Instagram built IGTV to compete with Snapchat Discover. And now with it testing a web version of Direct, it seems poised to challenge Snap for chat too.

This automation tool could change the way you use Instagram (for the better)

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Automate your Instagram account for easier maintenance.
Automate your Instagram account for easier maintenance.

Image: pexels

Connecting with your Instagram followers is fun… until it isn’t. Once it becomes part of your job description for marketing purposes, the hassle of scheduling, posting, and following up on #content can swiftly outweigh the thrill of racking up likes. And if those tiny red heart notifications stop sparking joy for you entirely, well, what’s the point of anything anymore?

That’s why Postable created an Instagram automation tool: to make it easier for individuals, brands, and bloggers alike to maintain an active presence on the photo-sharing platform. Once you begin a subscription, you can connect to your Dropbox or OneDrive accounts and upload photos from there to save time, then easily schedule posts to drive optimal follower engagement on an unlimited number of accounts.

With Postable’s Charlie Plan, you’ll also be able to automate engagement activities like following/unfollowing, liking, commenting, reposting, and messaging other users. This option comes with analytics reports (accessible on your dashboard) that track your page’s growth over time, as well as premium proxies for ultra-secure use. 

Mashable readers can sign up for a lifetime subscription to Postable’s Instagram Automation Charlie Plan for just $39, an 88% discount on the normal retail price of $325 that everyone else has to pay.