Jane Manchun Wong reverse-engineers popular apps to find new features before companies announce them.
- Jane Manchun Wong is a hacker in Hong Kong who discovers unreleased features on apps for fun.
- Wong has gained a following by revealing new features of Instagram, Spotify, Facebook, Lyft, and other apps months before their official announcements.
- She uncovered Instagram's experiment with hiding likes weeks before the company announced it — and an Instagram employee said her Twitter feed is more informative than the company's internal communications.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
As Jane Manchun Wong was digging through the code of the Instagram app after a recent update, the 25-year-old noticed something unusual: A new, experimental feature built into the code was named "What's up Jane."
The Hong Kong-based software developer doesn't work for Instagram, or any other major app. But she's built a following among tech workers, journalists, and enthusiasts because of her penchant for digging up and publicizing unreleased features long before they're officially announced.
Wong did what she normally does when she discovers something new in an app's code: She tweeted about it. Later that day, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri seemed to confirm the Easter egg.
—Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) February 1, 2020
Wong said in an interview with Business Insider that she first started seeking out apps' experimental features for fun.
"I guess it's just my curiosity that drives me," she said. "To me, this is a puzzle, and I have to solve it."
Wong began digging into apps' code years ago, driven by a desire to understand what companies meant when they vaguely described app updates as "bug fixes and improvements." Whenever an app is updated, Wong extricates the code, seeking dormant bits that may indicate a feature that's being tested. Then she reverse-engineers it to make the hidden feature show up on her phone.
She has regularly predicted features weeks or months before they're officially announced by apps like Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and Lyft. She's racked up more than 60,000 Twitter followers in the process, and her work has been featured in CNN Business, CNBC, and the BBC.
"Jane's work to discover what we're working on has become a fun part of our product development process. Her Tweets have given us immediate, early feedback on what we're building," Suzanne Xie, Twitter's product-management director, said in a statement to Business Insider.
Wong occasionally makes money by reporting security flaws to companies' bug-bounty programs but otherwise does her sleuthing purely for leisure. However, she said she was open to working as a developer for a major platform, "if they'll have me."
"I mostly just like to know how the apps work underneath and how they're structured," she said. "Now I share it on Twitter because people apparently do find it interesting. So, why not share it with the world?"
Here are some of the high-profile features Wong predicted correctly, as well as some new features she's spotted that are still unconfirmed.
Just this week, Wong revealed that Instagram was testing new advertising tools to let creators monetize IGTV videos. Hours later, a Facebook representative confirmed it.
—Alexandru Voica (will be at #MWC20) (@alexvoica) February 7, 2020
Wong correctly predicted that Instagram would roll out a feature to let users see which profiles they interacted with the least. Instagram announced the feature 112 days later.
—Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 19, 2019
Wong discovered an experimental "stories for playlists" feature in Spotify. Spotify began publicly testing the feature 155 days later.
—Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) August 19, 2019
Wong said Google Translate was testing a flashcards feature, which Google has not officially confirmed.
—Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) December 20, 2019
Wong was the first to report that Twitter was testing a "conversation tree" layout for tweet replies.
—Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) November 26, 2019
Wong's Twitter feed has become a resource for employees at the companies she posts about. One Instagram engineer even said Wong was more informative than the company's internal communications.
—Colin Higgins (@colinahiggins) October 10, 2019
An Instagram representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.