Instagram is morphing into a Snapchat lookalike. On Tuesday it introduced a "Stories" feature, just like its upstart rival, that lets people create video montages documenting their daily activities that disappear in 24 hours.
"With Instagram Stories, you don't have to worry about overposting," Instagram said in a blog post. "Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day -- with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won't appear on your profile grid or in feed."
That's the whole premise of Snapchat.
Instagram and parent company Facebook have been reckoning with the rising popularity of Snapchat, especially among 18- to 24-year-olds. Snapchat now has about 150 million daily users, while Facebook says Instagram has 300 million.
The scale of Instagram makes it a clear threat to Snapchat if it can capture more of the user behavior that gave the messaging app appeal in the first place.
Instagram has always been a place of highly curated, stylish photos and videos. Users would carefully craft their images and manage their Instagram feeds.
Snapchat, on the other hand, has been more free, where people post warts and all, knowing the content disappears.
"Instagram Stories" started trending on Twitter Tuesday morning with comments noting the similarity to Snapchat's approach:
Instagram just introduced Instagram Stories today, what a brilliant original idea, who would've ever thought 🙃🙂— Diydan López (@OfficialDiydan) August 2, 2016
There have been signs that Instagram users are posting fewer photos and videos, and Monday's update could help encourage more activity, according to Orli LeWinter, senior VP-strategy and social marketing at 360i. "With sharing down on Instagram year-over-year and with Snapchat (and other platforms) seeing so much success from their live product offerings, it's not surprising at all to see Instagram launch a Stories feature," Ms. LeWinter said in an e-mail. "What is surprising is how closely the feature resembles what Snapchat pioneered."
Brands and advertisers are certain to embrace Instagram Stories much as they have Snapchat as a way to share running narratives from their special events and other content. Instagram also expects to develop a way to generate revenue from it.
"We expect some businesses will experiment with Instagram Stories for sharing ephemeral content with specific audiences," Instagram said in an e-mailed statement. "For example, businesses could use Instagram Stories at select moments through the year to share behind the scenes content. Over time we look forward to introducing new advertising and other business opportunities as part of Instagram Stories."
Snapchat has made money showing short video ads – in the vertical position – in between stories from users.
Instagram on Tuesday also introduced a drawing feature, which lets people create virtual art just like on Snapchat.
Even Snapchat's augmented reality technology, such as lenses that turn users into taco faces and cats and the like, isn't going to remain Snapchat's alone. Facebook has been developing augmented reality for its primary social network as well as Instagram, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg basically described Snapchat's atmosphere of fun when describing the possibilities of augmented reality during the company's quarterly earnings report last week.
Twitter, too, is introducing stickers and other features that mimic Snapchat.