The New York Times: The war between Facebook and Snapchat just got real
The New York Times: The war between Facebook and Snapchat just got real

“Instagram Stories” Bring Snapchat’s Format to Facebook’s app

For nearly four years, Snapchat has been Facebook’s white whale.

The popular disappearing message start-up rebuffed a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook in 2013. Snapchat’s service has since continued to grow rapidly by capturing the hearts — and thumbs — of the young audiences that advertisers love. Facebook has failed in several attempts at cloning Snapchat.

Now Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, is for the first time taking its own stab at Snapchat.

On Tuesday, Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, which lets people share photos and videos that have a life span of no more than 24 hours with friends who follow them. The service bears a striking resemblance — some might say it is a carbon copy — to Snapchat Stories, a photo- and video-sharing format where the stories also disappear after no more than 24 hours.

The move could ignite a head-to-head battle between Instagram and Snapchat, which have long lurked in each other’s territories but have not faced off directly. Both are mobile apps that use primarily visual mediums. Both became popular first with young people. And both are now trying to improve their businesses by increasing digital advertising in formats like Stories.

Kevin Systrom, co-founder and chief executive of Instagram, did not mention Snapchat by name in an interview about Instagram Stories, but obliquely referred to “competitors” and acknowledged that “other companies deserve all the credit” for popularizing disappearing photos and videos. It has been an area of interest for Instagram for some time, he said.

Instagram Stories aims to lower the bar for sharing all types of photos and video — and not just the carefully planned and painstakingly touched-up photographs that are typical of the service, Mr. Systrom said.

“Our mission has always been to capture and share the world’s moments, not just the world’s most beautiful moments,” he said. “Stories will alleviate a ton of the pressure people have to post their absolute best stuff.”

Instagram Stories is now available in a separate section of the app, where users can shoot photos or video, which, just like Snapchat, can be adorned with text or drawings. Those are then combined to create a story, which is viewable by friends for 24 hours. People can make stories public or private, and can choose if they want only a subsection of their followers to view them.

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