Social media networks are increasingly looking to their peers for new ideas to make their platforms more attractive. Instagram, the photo sharing site owned by Facebook, is taking a page from Snapchat, arguably Instagram's biggest competitor.
The latest updates to the Instagram platform will allow users to send images, videos and direct messages that disappear after they are viewed. A roll out of the new features has already begun for both iOS and Android users, and they're expected to be available globally in the next few weeks.
Kevin Weil, head of product at Instagram, openly admits that the idea for ephemeral sharing come from Snapchat. However, he states that hashtags originated with Twitter, but we see them everywhere now, and Weil expects similar things will happen with the ephemeral format.
Limited Live Streaming
While sending images and videos that destruct upon receipt is expected to be popular, the real push seems to be towards Instagram Live. Instagram Live allows users to broadcast live streaming video that stops being available once the broadcast ends. While images and videos sent through the messaging system can be seen twice, no such second chance exists with live videos.
According to Instagram, the idea behind videos that stop being seen after a broadcast is over is to get more people to take advantage of video streaming. If someone looks silly or isn't perfect on camera, they won't have to worry about a record of it being on the Internet forever. It is hoped that this new feature will get more regular users involved in creating and sharing videos and that video content won't just be coming from advertisers and power users.
Instagram Live has also probably been designed to get users to spend more time using the app. Users who stream videos will be able to send messages to a few individuals to alert them about a broadcast, but people will also be able to find active live streams through an Explore page.
The Explore page will enable people to see a curated page, generated by an algorithm, that shows them live video streams that they may be interested in. Users will also be able to see an Instagram Live bubble pop up on their feed when people they follow start a stream. Since live streams could start at any time, and once they're over they're gone forever, people will have an incentive to check their feeds and the explore page frequently.
Know Who's Seeing What
Another reason for the self-destructing messaging and media sharing is that people have become more selective about who they share with on the Internet. Instagram users are able to not only select who gets to see what with ephemeral videos and photos, they are also alerted when someone screenshots a direct message sent through the Instagram Direct system.
Shares can be sent to individuals or groups, and they can only be sent to people who follow a user, which reduces the potential for spam or abuse. Further, when someone sets up a live stream, they can select whether they want comments on or not, so users have control over their sharing environment.