With 'Stories,' Instagram mimics Snapchat, and does it better



Instagram isn’t shy about following Snapchat’s lead. But so what, if it works.

Instagram seems to have copied, right down to the name, a feature in Snapchat called Stories. Snapchat, the mobile app that’s popular for its self-destructing messages, uses Stories to create a narrative. Snaps appear in chronological order with a “beginning, middle and end,” as Snapchat describes the feature, which was introduced in 2013.

Enter Stories from Facebook-owned Instagram, introduced this week. Like Snapchat Stories, the photos and videos in Instagram Stories will disappear after 24 hours. The aim is to capture the spur-of-the-moment, ephemeral feel of Snapchat’s feed and allow users to post more frequently and break out of Instagram’s more stiff, curated format. “With Instagram Stories… you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want…with text and drawing tools,” Instagram said in a blog this week.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Kevin Systrom, CEO & Co-founder of Instagram, was refreshingly upfront, saying, “They deserve all the credit,” referring to Snapchat. Systrom added that Silicon Valley innovators “invent formats” that everyone eventually copies, citing inventions like Twitter’s hashtags and Facebook’s feeds.

“Functionality, particularly broad areas, like how photos or videos are handled, is hard to patent. So, it can be copied legally in most cases,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told in an email.

“This seems to be a case of Facebook's wanting to slow the momentum of a smaller rival by adopting its core functionality. But you could argue that Snapchat didn't really have much intellectual property in the first place. It was more of a design idea: create a means to send photos with a timer on them,” he said.

Instagram users can see changes already. Stories of people you follow will appear at the top of the feed and those with updates will have a “colorful” ring around their profile. And to see someone’s story, tap on the profile photo.


And privacy settings carry over. If set to private, your story will only be visible to your followers, and you can hide the story from anyone.

Rave reviews

Importantly, the reception of Instagram Stories over the past 48 hours has been almost uniformly positive. That’s because Instagram hasn’t only copied Snapchat Stories, but improved it, according to most first-take reviews.

“Snapchat’s problem…is that it’s always been confusing and opaque to use,” wrote The Next Web. “Instagram took that confusing interface and did what it’s always done best: Made it useful to the masses, with a number of improvements that make it far more enjoyable to use.”

“I…rolled my eyes when I first saw that Facebook’s Instagram was cloning Stories…But then I tried it, and now I’m convinced: This was a smart move on Instagram’s part,” said Recode.

Snapchat and Instagram did not respond to a request for comment.