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Instachat or Snapgram? Instagram’s latest update raises a few eyebrows

Well, this is awkward.

Did you ever tell someone in school about your amazing idea for your art project and then come grading time you see your creation brought to life, but with their name on it?

Well, this is kind of like that, except the idea is probably worth millions of dollars and the classmate in question is actually a global social media brand.

By now everyone knows about the update Instagram brought out last week called ‘Instagram Stories’. Users can now post videos and photos to their Instagram account that appear in a feed across the top of the app but disappear altogether 24 hours from posting.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Enter Snapchat….

Snapchat became hugely popular in the social media world for its “disappearing” photos and videos that can be sent to a handpicked group of individuals and viewed for a certain number of seconds or shared to a ‘story’ that can be viewed by all contacts for up to 24 hours.

According to Snapchat, over 100 million people use the app daily and  watch over 10 billion videos per day. This figure represents a 350 per cent increase in the last year alone, which is a great example of how quickly the app has gained popularity. Snapchat introduced ‘Stories’ to the app in October 2013. This is the announcement on its official blog.

Given the similarity between Instagram Stories and Snapchat’s whole concept, one has to wonder what exactly is going on here. It’s been said that this update to Instagram is an attempt to ‘humanise’ the app. Many Instagram users will only post perfect images to their account and are very careful about what photos make up their grid (on their profile page). If there is one hair out of place, the frame is slightly off centre or the photo itself is a little grainy then it’s likely that image won’t make the cut. With the ‘Stories’ feature users can now fill their accounts with the moments that occur in between the perfect shots to be able to share more experiences from their entire day, without affecting the look of their profile grid.

Preview of Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories

The issue that seems to be quite apparent here is that Instagram is now a direct competitor with Snapchat over a concept that Snapchat first introduced. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and it’s certainly nothing new in social media.

This isn’t the first time this has happened…

In a world of innovation and invention, are any ideas truly sacred? Let’s be honest, companies ‘borrow’ concepts and ideas all the time – such is the nature of creative business. There are plenty of examples.

Let’s take Periscope, the live video streaming app, which launched in March 2015. A few months later, Facebook announced its ‘Facebook Live’ update. Initially, it was only available to celebrities and other public figures, but it was then rolled out to all users approximately 6 months later.

Instagram, which has been around since 2010, has famously used hearts as the ‘Like’ icon for its posts. Twitter announced in November 2015 that it would be scrapping stars for favouriting tweets, replacing them with hearts.

Netflix, the popular paid streaming service for movies and TV shows, was first rolled out in 1997 (although only gained massive traction in recent years). YouTube rolled out YouTube Red in October 2015, which allows users to stream videos across the network for a small fee per month, similar to Netflix pricing. It then updated in early 2016 to allow members access to YouTube original TV shows and movies. Original programming is a major part of Netflix’s strategy.

The use of a hashtag to group ideas was first used on Twitter in 2007 and became synonymous with the platform. Instagram then introduced hashtags for its users in January 2011 and Facebook itself supported the use of hashtags in 2013. Now, hashtags are used all over the web.

See mum, all the kids are doing it!

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What will define Instagram Stories?

While the differences between Instagram Stories and Snapchat are subtle, they still exist.

Instagram Stories appear along the top of the main feed in an order designed by an algorithm to show closest friends first, whereas Snapchat Stories appear on a different screen and are sorted chronologically. Instagram’s editing tools are a little more refined, allowing for clearer colour selection and size and style of the ‘pen’. The landing screens are vastly different – with Instagram showing the user’s feed and Snapchat displaying the camera screen, ready to start snapping.

Instagram’s management openly admits that they didn’t come up with the concept themselves. Kevin Synstrom, the company’s CEO, told TechCrunch in an interview about the update that Snapchat deserved all the credit for the concept, implementation and details of Instagram Stories.

He went on to say: “When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

Perhaps Pablo Picasso said it best with his famous quote: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

One thing’s for sure, it will be interesting to see what the social media big shots will come up with next to out-do each other and gain some more of that precious in-app time from their users.

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