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Instagram is grouping Stories to make them easier to find

Now you can find location stories and hashtag stories in your Explore feed.
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Seeing as Instagram's Stories is fast becoming one of the app's most popular features, the company is taking steps to make it even more visible. Instagram already had Stories on its Explore page, but today, it will feature two new kinds of Stories: location stories and hashtag stories. Location stories show you the photos and videos that have been tagged with your particular location, while hashtag stories center around a particular hashtag that's relevant to your interests.

If you fire up Instagram's Explore page some time today, you'll see a new story ring marked with your location. Tap it and you'll see photos and videos from folks who have chosen to add location stickers to their stories. Hashtag stories will look the same way.

What's particularly interesting is that location and hashtag stories can be found not just in Explore, but through search as well. If you search for "San Francisco" for example, your results won't just be of photos of San Francisco; you'll also see a story ring for the city at the top. Similarly, if you search for a hashtag, you'll see a story ring of that hashtag if other people used it in their stories.

That sounds pretty similar to what Snapchat is already doing with a Stories Search feature that it rolled out a couple of months ago. Search for a keyword on Snapchat, and you'll see snaps featuring that keyword. The difference here, however, is that on Snapchat, you have to opt in for the snap to be viewable in search. (You'd select "Snap to Our Story.")

On Instagram, however, any time you add a location sticker or a hashtag to your story, that photo or video could very well show up in that larger story ring on Explore or search. You'll know it's there if there's a line at the top of your viewer list that show the number of people who saw it in the larger story (as in the above image). If you want to keep using those location stickers and hashtags without putting your story on Explore, you have to opt out by hitting X in your stories viewer list.

The problem here is that photos and videos posted to Stories are often a little more intimate and personal than the ones on someone's regular Instagram feed. The fact that location stickers and hashtags will be indexable and searchable by default won't sit well with everyone, especially as Stories are often posted quickly without too much forethought. Of course, those photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours anyway, so it might not matter much. Still, I'd probably think twice going forward about adding those location stickers and hashtags in personal Stories.

Instagram says that location stories will roll out to iOS and Android starting today, while hashtag stories will arrive in the coming weeks.

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Raised in the tropics of Malaysia, Nicole arrived in the United States in search of love, happiness and ubiquitous broadband. That last one is still a dream, but two out of three isn't bad. Her love for words and technology reached a fever pitch in San Francisco, where she learned you could make a living writing about gadgets, video games and the internet. Truly, a dream come true. Other interests include baseball, coffee, cooking and chasing after her precocious little cat.

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