In a race to the bottom in technological ingenuity that mirrors a feature Snapchat pioneered in October 2013, Facebook now wants to grab a piece of the same market audience that its competitors have discovered, but with the advantage of having the largest social network on the planet.
Instagram introduced Stories in 2016, while WhatsApp rolled out a similar “Status” feature late last month. Instagram and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook and used by 600 million and 1.2 million active users per month, respectively. The plan to roll out the feature to a larger user base shows the need to adapt to a new sharing method characterized by ephemeral video and photography.
As some have noticed, Fcebook’s Messenger application received an update just over two and a half weeks ago that includes its own version of Stories, and it appears that will remain a separate feed from Facebook app for now. The goal is that Facebook has now added stories to all its main apps – Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
“The way people create content is changing to be from text to photos and videos,” said Connor Hayes, product manager for Facebook stories. “This is in turn changing the way they’re sharing with one another and interacting online.” He added: “This is something that Snapchat has really pioneered.”
“We want to make it fast, fun and easy for people to share creative photos and videos with whomever they choose, for however long they choose – and the more we share with each other, the more open and connected our community can be.”
Stories to serve as second Newsfeed
To create a story, people simply swipe right on the News Feed or tap the camera in the top-left corner of the mobile app. Similar to Snapchat, the Stories feature lets Facebook users decorate posts with texts, drawings, stickers and Shapchat-like animated filters. Once completed, the post can then be shared in a horizontally-scrolling newsfeed that sits on top of the Facebook app and looks almost identical to the Instagram Stories feature. In order to avoid intellectual property lawsuits, however, some UI elements have been slightly modified. For instance, changing filters requires swiping up or down rather than swiping left and right.
Instagram Stories (left) vs. Facebook Stories (right)
Of course, Facebook’s original plan was to outright acquire Snapchat in order to prevent the need for drawing up what seems to be an almost direct copy of its “Stories” feature. Snapchat filed for a $3.4 billion IPO in February with one of the biggest public offerings in the US since 2014, despite recording large financial losses. However, share prices have since fallen below the IPO price of $24, though eight of the company’s underwriters have recently given shares a “Buy” while four have given it a “Hold”.
Facebook’s ultimate goal behind Stories is to create a more personal, intimate version of the News Feed that will allow closer communication with friends, peers and family. As such, Stories will not be available to brands, advertisers, celebrity pages, or publishers.
Short-form image messaging sees normalization similar to texting in early 2000s
While text messaging has widely accomplished the goal of short-form digital communications since the mid-1990s, the rise of short-form, image-based communications methods has quickly become an emerging alternative for many user groups. Snapchat’s success with Stories over the past three years, and Instagram’s launch on Android in 2012 followed by its rapid increase in users over the succeeding years has also become a validation of this concept.