Instagram appears to be testing a new feature that allows users to follow hashtags. According to a screenshot posted to Twitter by Instagram user Pippa Akram, the feature will show users the newest and hottest posts and other content that use a followed hashtag, in much the same way that the service would show somebody posts by or regarding a followed user. The screen that shows followed hashtags seems to show a menagerie of posts in grid format right on that page. Akram was unable to find any other meaningful functions having to do with the new feature. Many users, including Akram, reported that the feature vanished without a trace shortly after they stumbled upon it. Instagram and Facebook have not made any announcements about this feature yet.
In the state that many users found the feature during what appeared to be a very brief test, the ability to follow hashtags seemed like a useful way to keep up with topics that users are interested in. Presumably, hot and featured posts that are related to or tagged with followed hashtags would also end up appearing on users' feeds. This would give users two options to view content from their followed hashtags; a singular hub, which would likely hold more content, and selected posts within their normal feeds. Since the feature was only in early testing and seemed to be swept away as quickly as it rolled out, of course, there's no telling whether that would be the final form that it would take. Still, since it was rolled out to some end users, even if only briefly, it's likely quite close to being ready for primetime.
Instagram is one of many apps in the Android ecosystem that have been making strong pushes toward becoming more user-friendly and feature-packed lately, rather than maintaining status quo, squashing bugs, or expanding their user bases. To that end, Instagram recently saw an update that allowed users to post photos that were older than a day in their Stories, making the Stories feature easier to use for piecing together a comprehensive, linear storyline or showing off photos that are somewhat related.