Instagram today began rolling out a small but noteworthy update to its iOS application, namely focusing on expanding and deepening the features of the "Explore" tab inside the app.

The first feature focuses on showcasing trending topics and places, with "dynamically updated content" that promises to give each user a real-time look at events and pictures happening nearby. Users will also be able to select from locations around the globe if they prefer to not be locked into local content.

instagram update
Secondly, curated collections will let Instagram users explore a constantly rotating array of people and places -- from topics like extreme athletes to national parks -- all hand picked by the Instagram team. The new update will also allow users to search by location in "Places search," to explore exotic destinations across the world, or even see what users in your local town are posting.

The new redesigned Explore tab is unfortunately only available for Instagram users in the United States, but the team has taken steps to improve basic search functionality for everyone else. These features include search by location and the traditional search all posts option.

instagram update 2
Speaking with Wired, Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom pointed toward the new update as a way for people to have instant visual updates on world news in one convenient place. It's "what we've been shooting for all along," Systrom said of the real-time spotlight focus on news and information.

Early on, he and cofounder Mike Krieger “had this vision that if we could grow large enough and have a system that allowed people to tag who they were with, they could see what is happening right now.” He used the example of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that decimated parts of New York City two-and-a-half years ago.

Even back then, traditional media outlets featured images from Instagram as part of their storm coverage. “But if you wanted to see photos, you had to know Sandy [was happening in the first place] and and to go look for that hashtag,” said Systrom. “We want to be the first place to cover it, and to have broad reach to cover the real things happening on the ground.”

Instagram's new update is rolling out now, and should be available to most users throughout the rest of the day, and the app can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

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