They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
On Monday, the company unveiled “Instagram Stories”—and in doing so, took a direct stab at competitor Snapchat.
In a major product change, the Facebook FB -1.00%-owned company is making a push to encourage more frequent, in-the-moment sharing. On Tuesday, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company began rolling out a new ephemeral sharing tool called “Instagram Stories” that heavily mimics the core Snapchat feature of the same name. Stories lets users add full-screen photos and videos, overlayed with text, emojis, filters and bright drawings in a slideshow of content that disappears after 24 hours. Users can choose to save the clips to their camera roll or share them on their traditional Instagram profile, where they can still post filtered photos and videos per usual. Users can capture clips for Stories through an in-app camera, or share camera roll content that is up to 24 hours old.
“Instagram has always been a place to share the moments you want to remember,” the company said in a blog post. “Now you can share your highlights and everything in between, too.”
Instagram users can view the stories at the top of their feeds. The accounts that you follow which have posted live videos appear in a scrollable bar; new stories are shown with a colored circle around the account’s icon.
Instagram explained that live stories can be private or public:
Your story follows the privacy settings of your account. If you set your account to private, your story is visible only to your followers. However, you can also easily hide your entire story from anyone you don’t want to see it, even if they follow you. When watching your own story, swipe up to check out who’s seen each photo and video. You can even choose to feature a particular part of your story by posting it on your profile.
Instagram’s move is the first in what will probably become a battle for users, The New York Times reported:
The move could ignite a head-to-head battle between Instagram and Snapchat, which have long lurked in each other’s territories but have not faced off directly. Both are mobile apps that use primarily visual media. Both became popular first with young people. And both are now trying to improve their businesses by increasing digital advertising in formats like Stories.
This is especially true after Snapchat turned down an offer from Facebook, The Times reported:
The popular disappearing-message start-up rebuffed a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook in 2013. Snapchat’s service has since continued to grow rapidly by capturing the hearts — and thumbs — of the young audiences that advertisers love. Facebook has failed in several attempts at cloning Snapchat.
Many social media users criticized the change, taking to Twitter with snark:
Can you imagine being the person who pitched #InstagramStories and had to act like it was something new and original?
— Sam Bond (@SBBond92) August 2, 2016
Everyone: “Can we have chronological timelines back?”
— Louis Karsenbarg (@LouisKarsenbarg) August 3, 2016
— Vic Bre (@TheCoolestLame) August 2, 2016
— The Black DaVinci (@meechonmars) August 3, 2016
— theCHIVE (@theCHIVE) August 2, 2016
— i feel like (@heyifeellike) August 3, 2016
— Hubwav (@Hubwav) August 2, 2016
— Johnny Robinson (@Johnnyyy23) August 3, 2016
— Horacio (@imnothoracio) August 3, 2016
— Adin Kolansky (@adinkolansky) August 2, 2016
— Little Miss Katy (@MissKatyEnglish) August 2, 2016
— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) August 2, 2016
I give it two months and Instagram will limit their captions to 140 characters just to compete with Twitter #InstagramStories
— Zack Green (@zackgreenwx) August 2, 2016
However, Instagram isn’t the only social platform looking to emulate Snapchat’s success with live video and photos.
“Stories is something you’re going to see adopted by a lot of different apps,” Instagram’s head of product, Kevin Weil, told Forbes. “Stories is a format the community has wanted to use within Instagram for a long time.”
Some say the copycat move isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Everything from the way you create [Instagram Stories], to how you browse through is clearly influenced by Snapchat and it’d be silly to say otherwise,” wrote The Next Web’s Owen Williams.
Williams wrote that though the feature was copied, Instagram’s team “out-innovated [Snapchat] with their own spin on the storytelling interface.” He explained:
Instead of lifting the entire experience straight from Snapchat and just slapping some lipstick on it, what Instagram has built is actually better and more well considered.
Snapchat’s problem – which might be slightly intentional – is that it’s always been confusing and opaque to use. Adults frequently complain they have no idea how to use the service, while generations of millennials gleefully enjoy it without needing to be taught.
Instagram took that confusing interface and did what it’s always done best: Made it useful to the masses, with a number of improvements that make it far more enjoyable to use.
I, too, rolled my eyes when I first saw that Facebook’s Instagram was cloning Stories, the best feature of Snapchat. But then I tried it, and now I’m convinced: This was a smart move on Instagram’s part, and it might even work.
Frommer wrote that the reason Instagram’s move might spell success for the platform comes down to its network:
Snapchat Stories are often entertaining because they star my friends or acquaintances, sometimes posing with silly animal-face filters or covered in emoji. It’s an entirely new medium of mobile-native video, and it’s been fascinating to watch develop, often unexpectedly.
But my feed of Instagram Stories is already totally different, based on a network of accounts I’ve followed over five years: Different friends and acquaintances, a hot-sauce brand I like, and people, shops and brands that I follow because I’m interested in them, not just because I’m phonebook-friends with them. I’d love to see Stories from some of the coffee shops, fashion designers, chefs, photographers and airline pilots I follow on Instagram — none of whom I’m currently Snapchat pals with.
What do you think of Instagram’s move, PR Daily readers? How might this affect your social media efforts?