Instagram’s newest feature feels like a near-perfect copy of Snapchat Stories — it even shares its name. Instagram Stories, released today, allows the app’s 500 million users to post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours, just like on Snapchat. Brought together, these photos and videos create a narrative string – or story – that can be adorned with text, drawings and even stickers, just like on Snapchat.
The move marks the latest salvo in the Instagram-Snapchat war, three years after Facebook tried to buy its popular competitor for $3 billion. Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel turned down the offer. Snapchat is now worth at least $18 billion.
Today, Instagram, owned by Facebook since 2012, is not even pretending that it’s not trying to copy its rival. Co-founder and chief executive Kevin Systrom admitted as much, telling the New York Times that “other companies deserve all the credit” for popularizing disappearing photos and videos. “This format unlocks a new version of creativity for us,” Systrom added. “I think Instagram will be judged by where we go from here, and what we make of it in the future.”
This isn’t Facebook’s — or even Instagram’s — first attempt to stay relevant as Snapchat has steadily climbed the ranks of social media giants, gaining traction among particularly young users. In 2013, the photo-sharing app launched Instagram Direct, a private messaging feature that remains barely used. A year later, Facebook launched Slingshot, an independent app that mimicked Snapchat’s disappearing features. It was so unpopular that Facebook pulled it out of the App Store last year.
With Stories, Instagram is hoping, one more time, to entice users to abandon Snapchat and convince advertisers, who have flocked in droves to the ephemeral messaging app, to come back to the Facebook ecosystem, even if that means degrading the quality of imagery shared on Instagram. “Our mission has always been to capture and share the world’s moments, not just the world’s most beautiful moments,” as Systrom bluntly told the Times.