Instagram raised a few eyebrows in August by copying Snapchat with the introduction of its very own disappearing Stories feature.
Now that the debate over the ethics of such blatant plagiarism has died down — in part due to the fact that copycat behavior is common when it comes to social media — Instagram is forging ahead with its take on the social sharing function.
The company’s latest update differentiates the feature from Snapchat in a big way. Instagram is utilizing the power of its Explore tab to help users discover Stories and follow the accounts that post them. On Tuesday, the app announced that it will show recommended Stories to all users at the top of the Explore section. These suggestions are based on your Instagram activity, including who you follow and the topics you are interested in. The feature, which was tested on select users in late August, is now available to everyone.
Like Facebook’s News Feed, Instagram’s Explore tab is curated by an algorithm, which allows for greater personalization. Earlier this month, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom touted the success of the Stories feature by claiming the ephemeral slideshows receive 100 million daily views.
The lack of user guidance when it comes to building a social network is one of the biggest criticisms hurled at Snapchat. The app doesn’t recommend who you should follow, instead relying on an organic, hands-off approach. This in turn is partly responsible for its success with teens and millennials — the former in particular gravitate toward lesser-known apps that don’t resonate with older users. Snapchat remains the darling of teens across the country for this very reason. As a result, the company has done very little to make the learning curve easier for its 150 million user base.
Instagram, on the other hand, is keen on harnessing its larger audience (500 million users at last count) to propel Stories beyond its current standing as a Snapchat clone. The feature also fits nicely into the Explore tab, which has increasingly been making space for videos on its grid-like interface.
“The new suggested stories section highlights the most interesting stories from across Instagram’s vast global community — and like the rest of Explore, the stories you’ll see are personalized to your interests,” states Instagram in its new blog post announcing the update.
Does Snapchat need to be worried? Perhaps not at present, seeing as its growth is expected to surge ahead undisturbed for the near future. However, if Instagram’s continued promotion of Stories can encourage the daily activity the company craves, users may begin to question the need for two identical apps. That would definitely be a cause for concern for its smaller rival.