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.
Why? The same reason Instagram is still great: Its network, not just its file format.
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.
So what if it’s not an original creation? No one really cares about originality in social media. If they did, no one would have joined Facebook, because it was a blatant rip-off of Friendster. Or they’d never have used Facebook Messenger stickers because they were borrowed from Line, WeChat or wherever. (And for whatever it’s worth, in typical Instagram fashion, its Stories execution and user-interface design seems superior to Snapchat’s. Plus user discovery, where Instagram still wins by a mile.)
Credit, then, to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom for calling out Snapchat as the creator of the “Stories” format — and for having the guts to copy it anyway.
“This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it,” Systrom said.
Bingo. Now we’ll see if Instagram users bother to post Stories — or any videos — in any meaningful abundance.
Bigger picture: Snapchat and Instagram (and Facebook) have long been on a collision course. Snapchat’s success has been fascinating because it feels like such a scrappy, organic phenomenon that broke a lot of cultural norms. (Face swap?!) Everything about Instagram’s evolution, meanwhile, has felt more deliberate, if less fun.
So who knows if this thing is going to work. Maybe the Instagram environment is too precious for the more casual Stories format. But if it turns out to be a medium that means something to people, it’s worth a shot.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.