5 Controversial tech changes that nearly broke the internet

Anyone who keeps a close eye on their favourite apps, online services and social feeds will notice that tiny changes often occur each and every day — whether that’s a slightly bigger font or a slightly smaller logo.

But sometimes our beloved brands make a whole raft of changes in one go, which is usually met with a mixture of surprise, confusion and outright disdain by online communities.

Last week Twitter made a number of design changes to its popular social media platform. Icons have become lighter and outlined rather than filled with colour, profile photos are circular rather than square, and like and retweet numbers now update in real-time, to name just a few of the updates.

Although many agree the design changes make sense, (after all, real-time stats are invaluable for brands and individuals alike), some are furious. In response, many are doing what online communities do best — they’re creating memes about it.

Fascinated by the way online communities respond to, let’s face it, fairly innocuous, changes to their favourite sites, we’ve collected five examples of when changes to a product or service caused a big stir.

When Facebook replaced your profile and wall with a timeline

Back in 2011, Facebook revealed it’d be changing stuffy profiles (remember those?) into timelines. In many ways they didn’t look too dissimilar, but the feel and functionality changed too. No longer did Facebook profiles consist of just a ‘wall’ with content from your friends and activity presented on it. Instead your timeline became the grid-like profile it is now, with spaces for photos, updates and a huge cover photo.

As you’d expect, this caused an uproar among Facebook users, with some creating timeline-hating groups and others opting into scams that promised to remove the timeline from your Facebook-ing experience for good. Needless to say, the outrage didn’t achieve much and the timeline weathered the storm.

LinkedIn’s recent changes that hid all of the important stuff

Earlier this year, LinkedIn rolled out lots of changes that seemed at odds with what the social networking platform is all about, namely; showing off to people who barely know you about just how great you are.

It seems one of the main aims of the new design is to hide a load of important data, like publications, honours, and awards. The corporate social media site also made recommendations less visible and shrunk your profile photo down to be teeny tiny. So far, so baffling.

Apparently, the thinking was to provide a more streamlined experience and to partially ‘hide’ information that you probably don’t care much about when you’re browsing through someone’s online CV. Of course, the problem is we all tend to use platforms differently, which means one person’s useless piece of information might be really important to someone else. The complaints about the new format are still rolling in, so watch this space.

When Instagram decided that not all photos are created equal

Last year Instagram revealed it’d be doing away with chronological posting and instead using an algorithm to show you content you’re more likely to interact. This magic formula will prioritise showing you snaps from people you interact with a lot, ones where the photo has already got a lot of likes and comments, plus a whole raft of other factors which only Instagram is privy to.

For some Instagram influencers and brands this was great news. They know they create great content, have a big following and the new algorithm would favour their posing skills, quirky Boomerangs and over-the-top flat lays. But many felt it was making the Instagram experience way less organic and reducing the ability to discover new people or accounts.

Yet, as with most changes like this, the initial controversy eventually died down and the new algorithms stuck. Cue many minor celebrities begging you to ‘turn on notifications’ lest their posts be lost in the Instagram ether.

When Apple helped you to burn through your data with Wifi Assist

Now admittedly this one didn’t cause as much as a stir as the others — especially those with free data plans — but it’s worth mentioning as a great example of a change Apple thought was doing everyone a favour. And actually meant a lot of people burned through their data allowance — and their cash — pretty darn quick.

The Wifi Assist feature came bundled up with iOS 9 back in 2015 and the whole idea was moving you from Wifi mobile browsing to 3G or 4G data browsing if your iPhone felt it’d be quicker and provide a better experience. Makes sense so far, right? The problem was that you could be doing stuff that uses up a huge amount of mobile data when it decides to make this switch, like streaming House of Cards, and suddenly realise you’ve been eating up your data allowance unexpectedly. There was luckily a quick fix for this particular problem, but it didn’t half sting for those who didn’t know it even existed before their phone bill surprised them.

When Instagram’s psychedelic new logo made our heads hurt

Companies make changes to their logos all the time, but Instagram made a massive U-turn when it transformed its brown-hued, realistic-looking, retro camera icon into a minimal, gradient-filled logo.

Many felt it really signalled a move towards valuing younger Instagrammers who like unicorn toast and pastel nail polish rather than those who were into photography and photos of their cats. Ouch. Maybe we’re still a bit bitter about this one?

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