Instagram is Snapchat now—almost, kinda, sorta.
On Tuesday, the second-most-popular social network among teenagers borrowed a major feature from the most-popular social network among teens. Instagram debuted a new functionality called “Stories” that lets users create a rolling montage of pictures and videos from the last 24 hours. Users can draw and type words on the images, swipe to add filters to them, and set which of their followers can see their own story. After displaying for a day, Stories aren’t saved like normal Instagram photos—instead, they disappear forever.
Button for button, affordance for affordance, the feature almost completely copies a Snapchat feature which is also called Stories. And Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram, knows it. “They deserve all the credit,” he told TechCrunch. “This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”
That’s a happy thought that you can only say if you employ a lot of lawyers and own an arsenal of software patents. But I digress. Stories is one of the best parts of Snapchat, which means it’s one of the best parts of the modern mobile environment. Snapchat Stories—which works so similarly to Instagram Stories that there’s no need to explain it—lets people crack jokes, point out something crazy, or post a meaningless selfie without worrying about it sticking around forever. If anything, Instagram improves on Snapchat Stories by giving it even more pride of place in the app interface: Instead of putting it in a side menu, as Snapchat does, Instagram slides it right at the top of the feed. Before you even slide down and see friends’s newest grams, you’re entreated to watch their story.