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Instagram just cloned Snapchat’s Stories feature to get more people sharing

Oh snap! / Fox

Instagram is taking a page out of Snapchat’s playbook. Okay, more like a chapter or two.

On Tuesday, Instagram announced Stories, a “new” feature that is — with the exception of a few minor design elements — a replica of Snapchat’s Stories feature, which lets users share photos and videos to their followers, and which expire 24 hours after they are posted.

The similarities are striking, even outside of the main concept. Both Stories products limit videos to 10 seconds, feature Stories in a row of small circles inside the app, and let you draw or add stickers to photos and videos you share. Oh, and the name is the same, too.

Depending on where you work, Instagram’s Stories feature is either the most sincere form of flattery or the most blatant form of plagiarism. Instagram doesn’t seem concerned. New product VP Kevin Weil, who joined the company earlier this year from the same position at Twitter, likened Snapchat’s creation of Stories to the way the hashtag started on Twitter.

“When people first started using a hashtag outside of Twitter, it was a big deal,” Weil said. “It’s become universal as a result. I think ‘the story’ is a fantastic format for sharing in the moment and giving people a picture of your daily life, and I think a lot of apps are going to adopt it.”

The new product could help Instagram in two big ways:

  1. It addresses Instagram’s sharing problem, as detailed in a report from The Information saying that people aren’t sharing as many posts to Instagram as they used to. Because Stories disappear, they’re typically more casual and less curated than a traditional Instagram post, which is often used as the highlight of a recent vacation or a night out with friends. “Instagram Stories turns Instagram into the best place to share your highlights, but also the everyday moments that make up your life between those highlights,” Weil said.
  2. It addresses Instagram’s Snapchat problem — specifically, that people love Snapchat. The app is far and away the greatest threat Facebook and Instagram have come across in their effort to own every minute we spend on our mobile devices, especially if you’re a young person.

The thinking inside Instagram is that if people are already opening its app to share the photos they want to keep, maybe they’ll also stick around to share the more fleeting memories, too. Stories are super popular on Snapchat, so it stands to reason they’ll also be super popular on Instagram, which has a similar, albeit much larger, audience.

It’s never quite that simple, of course, but it’s a legitimate argument. It’s also an idea that has already caught Snapchat’s attention. When it noticed that people were finding more permanent ways to share their Snaps to other networks (like, say, Instagram), it rolled out a new feature called Memories so users could save photos and videos inside the Snapchat app instead. It still doesn’t offer a profile or photo album feature like you might find on Instagram or Facebook, but the idea that everything on Snapchat disappears is quickly going away.

A quick history lesson: This is not Facebook’s first blatant attempt to copy Snapchat. After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried and failed to buy the company in late 2012, Facebook twice launched ephemeral messaging apps, both of which flopped.

Instagram also borrowed the idea for Snapchat Live Stories, collections of photos and videos around popular events, and launched its own version last October. Live Stories, too, are a big part of Snapchat’s business, but have been relatively quiet inside of Instagram (at least, we haven’t heard much about them since launch).

The new Stories feature will be available as part of a free Instagram app update on iOS and Android, beginning Tuesday. Here’s a video Instagram released along with the update.

This article originally appeared on

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