What’s with all the stories?

Stories were first introduced on Snapchat, but Facebook and Instagram (Facebook owned) are attempting to integrate the feature into their platforms.

The core of all three products is the same. The user swipes to a new screen, which shows a camera meant for capturing their story. User takes a video or a photo, and then chooses to send it directly to people, or share it publicly on their profile. Facebook messenger calls this “your day,” whereas instagram and snapchat both just refer to it as “your story.”

The biggest difference between these three platforms is that they all started out with different intentions, and are now trying to make “stories” a key feature. Snapchat started as as way to send disappearing messages to friends. At the beginning of snapchat, users would go through their entire contact list and select all of their friends to send out the same message en mass. Snapchat clued into this user behavior, and introduced user stories. This feature allows users to share videos and photos from their day for all their friends to see. The content then disappears within 24 hours. This feature is interesting for two reasons. One, it is a low commitment way for people to send out content. Instagram struggles because people care so much about quality, they don’t post as frequently. On stories, users can post several times a day without having to worry about it staying there forever or taking up space on their profiles. Two, users can put out more content because their followers have the choice to look at it. If it’s sent as a direct message, it may be viewed as annoying if you send too many.

All three platforms are reliant on advertising revenue, and thus the amount of time users spend on a platform directly affects the company’s bottom line. Stories encourage users to post more content, and because there’s more content their followers will spend more time on the platform. Instagram introduced stories, and then Facebook later incorporated stories into their messaging platform.

This was controversial because Facebook was clearly taking Snapchat’s core features and putting it on their apps. In the case of instagram, the story feature felt like a natural fit because at its core instagram is already a photo sharing platform. However adding the feature to Facebook messenger felt a lot less natural, because Facebook messenger feels more like a sister to email and a distant cousin of a photo sharing platform.

One key difference is that instagram allows you to upload content you already have on your phone to your story. Another key difference is the ability to add filters your video or photos. Snapchat is leading in this, using augmented reality technology to make your face look like a dog or swap the faces of two people in the photo.

Dog filters might seem like a fun but insignificant feature, but in reality these filters present huge potential for a new way to collaborate with advertisers. While making a dog appear on a screen might not seem that exciting, there is actually very complex vision recognition technology at work behind the scenes. If Snapchat can retain its user base despite Facebooks copying, and continue to be a leader in using augmented reality technology in a social context, it will have an advantage over Facebook once augmented reality wearables become mainstream. Technology experts have predicted that augmented reality wearables will be as transformational as the iPhone was, so if they don’t let Facebook push them out Snapchat has the potential to be the leading social network.

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