Instagram over the years has been trying to expand its userbase to reach many other folks who are in parts of the world as well as those without great internet access, This has been an issue that Instagram app has been facing. That’s why the Facebook-owned company has turned to a New York-based team of engineers to help restructure and optimize its app for improve compatibility with any network environments that don’t involve omnipresent high-speed internet access.
A key issue with building systems that improve performance is that it can be hard for software engineering teams to see when users are being turned off of an app. Lola Priego, an engineer on the team in New York that maintains and analyze performance in the Instagram app, said in an interview with VentureBeat that users will be discourages from using an app if it doesn’t perform well, so it can be hard to tell when those performance issues are affecting user experience.
“Instagram performance is really a hard task to be discover through metrics,” Priego said. “If the performance of the app isn’t good, you won’t use it.”
While users in some part of the world will often have strong network connections and high-performance phones with recent versions of their respective operating systems, that’s not necessarily the case in other countries or places. The sorts of practices that work well enough in other markets don’t translate as well across borders.
Priego and her team developed a system that lets Instagram’s app pre-fetch data while on a strong network connection, so that users can see photos of their friends that has been uploaded to the social network between the last time they closed the app and when they’re expected to next open it.
This system works by predicting to when users will re-open the app, and then fetching the latest data just in time for folks to see the most up-to-date stuff when they eventually open it. That way, if they’re unable to connect to a network (or the networks they’re on limits how much bandwidth they can use), it’s still possible for them to get up-to-date images.
In addition to this system, another part of the performance team developed a system for the Instagram Android app that makes it easier for developers to split each function within the app into different modules that can then be loaded independently of one another. That helps improve a key metric: startup time.
All of that is baked into a framework that Instagram engineers can use to enable pre-fetching for the features they’re working on within the application.
Because the app doesn’t need to load all of its content at once, then it’s possible for people to start browsing Instagram faster, while the system uses “lazy loading” to gather in additional modules roughly when it makes sense. Assuming it all goes according to plan, people should actually see this improved performance.
As tech companies continue to seek new avenues of growth, this sort of international compatibility work will only become more important.
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