In a support post this morning, Strava announced big changes that will drastically reduce the number of segments showing on Zwift activities. Here is how Strava summarized the changes:
- The least popular virtual ride segments have been made private, but none have been deleted. Any segments you’ve created can be found on the Strava website by selecting Dashboard > My Segments > Created Segments.
- Any newly created virtual segments will be private.
In Strava’s words, these changes should “… remove clutter and noise so athletes can experience the segments that matter the most.” Let’s dig into this a bit more…
Virtual segments, and specifically Zwift virtual segments, have been putting a strain on Strava’s systems for years. Strava was designed with real-world segment traffic in mind, and that is very different from the sort of traffic Zwift brings. In the real world, riders are spread out and so are the segments. On Zwift, riders are concentrated into small areas, with tens (hundreds!) of thousands riding each day.
This strain has become clear in recent months, when we haven’t been able to create Zwift Insider verified segments for routes of any substantial length due to Strava timing out in the “Check for Duplicates” step of its segment creation workflow. It appears there are simply too many public segments for Strava to compare against.
Additionally, the sheer the number of Strava segments for Zwift courses is just silly. And Strava’s automated systems for choosing which segments to display or hide have never worked well on Zwift.
New Segments=Private Segments
With this change, all newly-created virtual segments will be private, meaning only the creator can see the segment.
Note: at the time of this post, this change doesn’t appear to be fully implemented. There was still a checkbox in the segment creator tool to “Make this segment private”.
Existing Segments Made Private
Strava says “The least popular virtual ride segments have been made private”. They aren’t disclosing just how many segments were switched to private with this change, but from what I’m hearing it’s a “significant portion of existing segments.” When I asked Strava what sort of “signals” they are using to decide which segments stay public and which ones are switched to private, they said:
We’re reviewing segments based on engagement post-activity upload and understanding whether athletes look at the segment analysis and leaderboards. Segments with lowest engagement are made private.
Sounds sensible to me. Odd that they didn’t mention whether or not people have starred a segment, but my guess is this is included in their engagement metrics as well.
Private segments are only visible to a segment’s creator, meaning they aren’t matched against the activities of other riders. So switching many public segments to private means two good things: less processing required in terms of segment matching for Strava, and fewer segments showing up in activities.
Of course, Zwifters can still see their own results on any segments they’ve created on their ride activity details page.
What About Zwift Insider Verified Segments?
Strava and ZwiftHQ reached out to me at Zwift Insider with news about this change, because they recognize that our large set of “Zwift Insider verified” Strava segments are important to the community and should be kept public. I was grateful for that! So it sounds like our segments will be kept public.
In the short-term, creating new Zwift Insider verified segments will require an extra step or two of reaching out to Strava to get the segment made public. But I can deal with that.
What About My Segments?
In my chats with Zwift, it is clear they are well aware that the community has created many bespoke segments that are used to track various events. It is unclear how many (if any) of these segments will be switched to private, but hopefully between Strava’s automated triggers and Zwift’s communication with Strava the useful community segments will stay public.
When I asked Strava what the process was for “forcing” a segment to be public, they said:
…if the Zwift team recognizes a segment as important or significant and lets Strava know, then Strava will make it public.
Wrapping It Up
A few weeks ago, Strava rolled out new algorithms to catch impossible efforts upon uploads. They say today’s change is the next step in “making the segment experience better for athletes”. I agree!
As I said over 3 years ago, “I don’t care if I got a PR on a random .2 mile section of London titled ‘your mom smells like donuts’! Reducing the clutter will make it much easier for athletes to track their progress on segments they actually care about.
My only concern is that useful, community-created segments will remain public. I’m sure we’ll hear from the Zwift community if that doesn’t happen, but I’m hoping Strava has implemented the auto-privatization of existing segments so it’s all quite painless.
What Do You Think?
Does this change seem like a good one? What are your thoughts? Share below!