All posts in “Instagram Stories”

Snapchat lets you add links, voice filters and backdrops to Snaps

Snapchat is breaking its long-standing ‘no links’ rule today while also providing some novel new creative tools to keep it one step ahead of Instagram. The new features are rolling out globally on iOS and Android thanks to an update today, Snap Inc tells TechCrunch.

Here’s a demo of how these creative tools work, and descriptions of how to use them.

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  • Paperclip lets you attach a website to a Snap that friends can swipe up to open in Snapchat’s internal browser. Previously only ad campaigns and Discover content could include links. Just tap the Paperclip button in the Vertical toolkit and enter your link. This could let you share an event link or funny meme on Snap, but also makes it so some Snaps are incomplete at first glance and require extra time to understand.

    Snapchat tells TechCrunch that all shared links must abide by its terms of service, community guidelines, and privacy policy. Snap will us its own automated trust and safety tools as well as information from Google’s Safe Browsing service to warn users about potential phishing scams, malware, or other dangerous sites. To help users avoid opening objectionable links, a preview will be shown next to the swipe-up arrow, and Snap encourages users to report inappropriate content.

  • Backdrops lets you cut out an object from your Snap and put colorful or artsy pattern behind it to make it stick out. First tap the Scissors in the Vertical Toolkit and then the Backdrop icon. Trace around the object, select one of the Backdrop designs that rotate daily, and you’ll be able give a certain part of your snap the spotlight. The ability to insert a layer of imagery between objects and the real background gives people a creative way to augment the world behind them, not just their faces.
  • Voice Filters let you remix the sound of voices in your Snaps. Previously voice filters were only part of visual augmented reality lenses, like one that made you look and sound like a bumble bee. Now you can tap the speaker icon at the bottom of the screen and select from a range of character voices to give your Snaps some extra humor or style. Some of these voice filters might get annoying, but they’ll open up new opportunties for story telling.

Now the question is how long until Instagram copies these too. Instagram already lets verified profiles attach links to Stories, but not everyone. Snap will have to hope that links don’t disrupt the seamless viewing experience by tempting people to swipe out of Stories and into the internal web browser. The last thing we need is another place to share news articles.

I can’t be basic on Instagram anymore and it’s all because of Stories

Our Instagram Stories are awash with snapshots of our everyday lives. But, now that there’s a hidden trove reserved for our most private — and dare-I-say basic — snaps. Instagram’s already-very-high bar for posts has crept to a scary new height. 

Recently, somewhere between posting photos of chilled glasses of rosé and intricate latte art on my Story, I noticed a drastic shift in the way I was using the app. So drastic that I’m frozen by self-doubt when I go to post anything on my main grid. 

A few weeks ago, I did something I’ve been doing for years: I uploaded a photo to Instagram. That sunny evening, I casually posted a snap of my garden on my Story complete with a “lit” sticker. But, when I went to share a similar photo on my main feed, I hesitated for a moment. “Is this really Insta-worthy?” I asked myself. My finger hovered nervously over the “Share” button. I hit the button and instantly regretted it. I worried that the photo wasn’t good enough, that it was too basic. I opened and closed the app five times before eventually opting to delete the photo entirely. 

Way back when Stories didn’t exist, I had no qualms about posting shots of my food, cocktails or photos of me and my friends on a night out. But, fast forward to the present day, those photos wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near my Instagram grid. 

In that moment, it dawned on me just how much Stories has changed the way I use the app. I now feel an added pressure to post only unusual, entertaining and *importantly* high quality photos and video. There’s definitely no room for basic selfies or latte art. 

I am not the only one who feels this way. Blogger Vicky Charles says that before Stories first came out she “wasn’t really bothered” about what she posted on her Instagram. But now she’s “paying more attention” to her Instagram after realising she’d been posting too much, and at the wrong times.

“I started putting the general “this is my day” stuff on Stories, and started using my profile for the better shots, which I started posting at a more specific time of day,” says Charles. “I think the bar is definitely higher,” she continued, as people now post “much more staged shots”.

Travel blogger Fabio Virgi says he’s now a lot more selective these days as the standard for quality on Insta is significantly higher. “Stories definitely made a big impact because as a travel blogger, people want to see a lot of your behind the scenes stuff. If you’re sharing that live via your Story, then there’s less need for a dedicated post,” he says. 

Virgi says Stories are a useful alternative when the lighting on a photo isn’t quite right, or you haven’t managed to get that “ideal” shot. He says posting it on your Story means you can avoid the “worry of quality and judgement”. 

Fitness trainer Julia Buckley says that she’s also felt a noticeable shift on Instagram, but she’s found it “quite liberating”. 

“Because stories will only be around for 24 hours, I’m more relaxed about what I post there,” says Buckley. “But, yeah, I probably have started to feel like the images on my main Instagram need to be higher quality now.”

“In the photos and videos I post in Stories I’m not usually wearing any make-up, if it’s first thing in the morning I probably won’t have even brushed my hair,” says Buckley. She says she likes showing her authentic self on Stories so people can see the difference between the kind of images fitness Instagrammers post and how they look in real life.

Basic story vs Insta quality

Basic story vs Insta quality

Image: rachel thompson / instagram / mashable composite 

But, by only sharing our authentic selves on Instagram Stories and not on our grids, are we widening the divide between the authentic and fake on Instagram? Since noticing the shift in my Insta-habits, I’m making a more conscious effort to ease off the pressure on posts. I don’t want to censor my posts for fear of being too basic or mundane. After all, what’s wrong with being basic?

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Instagram Location Stories appear in Explore. Is Story Search coming?

It’s taking Instagram less and less time to copy Snapchat. Less than two months after Snapchat launched its Stories Search feature for seeing what’s going on at a location or related to a topic, Instagram is rolling out Location Stories to its Explore page.

Last week, TechCrunch broke the news that Instagram was testing Location Stories, which aggregate into a collaborative slideshow the publicly posted Stories tagged with a location sticker. This lets you see Stories from strangers to get a sense for what’s up at a certain place, such as Times Square in the last 24 hours, like the weather, events going on or how many people are there.

Instagram shows Location Stories in Explore

But at the time, you could only find Location Stories by clicking through a location sticker on someone’s Story or navigating to that location’s Instagram Page.

Now TechCrunch has spotted Instagram highlighting Location Stories in the Explore tab’s Stories section, seen in the screenshot above. Previously this only showed top Stories and live broadcasts from user accounts. This will make Location Stories much more serendipitously discoverable. Instagram declined to comment for this story, but given that we have a clear screenshot, the company’s reluctance may foreshadow an official announcement in the future.

The Instagram Location Stories features beg the question of whether Instagram is preparing a full-fledged Stories Search option. This could let you see aggregated Stories about hashtag or keyword, as well as locations.

[Update 5/23/17: Instagram just announced its launching Stories Search for locations and hashtags.]

At first, Instagram might just use formal hashtag or location stickers in Stories to identify what should appear in search results. But eventually it could include Stories posts with the searched keyword written as a caption or drawing, or when the keyword is related to emoji or stickers in the post. And with the right technology in place, Instagram could detect objects, people or places in Stories to surface “Statue of Liberty” Stories shot at the landmark, even if they don’t mention it by name.

By letting people search for and watch Stories related to anything, Instagram could boost viewing time, earn more revenue by serving ads inside these searched Stories and equip users with new use cases like the ability to see what’s going on somewhere right now. Instagram could even let businesses pay to curate their location or brand’s Story, or include promotional material.

Snapchat’s new Stories Search feature

Snapchat Stories Search can show you a slideshow of all the Stories posts from a location that were submitted to Our Story

Snapchat is already using all the signals mentioned above to surface things in its Stories Search that launched at the end of March. It’s even letting you watch Stories shot more than 24 hours ago. Snapchat’s whole search feature is privacy-safe because all searchable Stories have to be voluntarily submitted to the Snapchat “Our Story.”

Instagram does not appear to be requiring users to opt-in or volunteer to have their content appear in Location Stories, as long as their Stories are tagged with the location sticker, and are public — which is the same as how Instagram picks permanent posts to appear in its Explore tab. The same might go for a possible search feature.

The problem is that might put a chilling effect on people sharing more intimate Stories. Even if the content is public, Snapchat has trained people to feel like Stories are more private. Instagram might want to offer some opt-out of Stories content appearing in search or Explore, or restrict inclusions to Stories purposefully tagged with a hashtag or location sticker.

Soon we might be seeing another battle between Instagram and Snapchat flare up around search. Snapchat’s strategy would see it able to index Stories for search by any signal, but only if and because they’re purposefully submitted to Our Story. Instagram might draw from a larger pool of content by not requiring formal submission, but restrict itself to fewer signals to index content.

We’ll see whether Instagram or Snapchat can win the window into every place or topic, not just our friends’ lives.

Instagram tests Location Stories

Instagram wants to let you see everything going on somewhere right now. TechCrunch has discovered that Instagram is testing a new Location Stories feature that compiles publicly shared Instagram Stories posts tagged with a location sticker. Users can then visit that business, landmark or place’s Instagram page and watch a slideshow Story of posts from there shared by strangers they don’t follow.

This feature sees Instagram leveraging its old permanent content to power a feature Snapchat doesn’t have. Instagram has long had Location pages showing non-ephemeral posts tagged there — but now it’s added the Location story there.

The closest thing Snapchat has is the new Stories Search feature it’s testing. But it relies on metadata, machine vision object recognition and the free-form text people add to Snaps to surface content. Instagram’s standardized location database that powers location stickers will make it easier to both add to a unified Location Story and watch them, too.

Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that this is a new feature in testing. When I asked Instagram VP of Product Kevin Weil about it onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, here’s what he told me:

You can read more about our interview with Weil in our post: Instagram on copying Snapchat “This is the way the tech industry works”

Today Instagram also launched the ability to add hashtag stickers to Stories, which could potentially lead to Hashtag Stories.

There are plenty of use cases for both. You could discover the best photo opportunities at a landmark and get creative ideas for what to do when you visit. You could see if a bar is full and lively, or if a band has gone onstage yet before you show up. You could even use it to check the real-time, hyperlocal weather somewhere.

Long term, Location Stories could become a revenue driver too if Instagram lets brands pay to insert ads there, or curate what appears in their Story. Simultaneously, the feature presents a moderation problem, as it exposes users to the content of strangers. Instagram will have to rely on machine vision and user flagging to weed out offensive posts.

We’ve reached an exciting moment. As of today, Instagram has copied that last major Snapchat Stories feature. Now we may get to see it start innovating more on the medium, racing to where Snapchat’s limited resources won’t let it reach yet.

Instagram launches selfie filters, copying the last big Snapchat feature

Today Instagram Stories adds a more subtle and mature but error-prone copycat of Snapchat’s beloved augmented reality selfie filters. The eight initial “face filters,” as Instagram calls them, work exactly like Snapchat, and let you add virtual koala ears, nerd glasses, a butterfly crown or wrinkle-smooth makeup to yourself and friends in photos or videos.

TechCrunch got an exclusive hands-on demo of the filters, which are easier to use and don’t distort your face as much, but don’t track your movements and stay properly positioned on you face as well as Snapchat’s. You can watch our hands-on demo video below, and follow along as we interview Instagram head of product Kevin Weil at TechCrunch Disrupt NY at 9:05am Eastern:

The face filters are the last major Snapchat Stories feature missing from Instagram after it cloned Snap’s slideshow-sharing format, overlaid creative tools, disappearing Direct messages and more. Without a compelling reason for new users to pick the original Snapchat Stories over the Instagram Stories clone, Instagram could thereby widen the gap by adding to its 200 million daily Stories users that already outnumber Snapchat’s 166 million total users, and further slow down Snap’s growth rate that led it to lose 25 percent of its share price value after it announced weak earnings last week.

Face filters and three more features roll out to all users today via an iOS and Android app update. An eraser tool will let you remove drawings you added to an image, though it can’t “Photoshop” out objects from the original image like Snapchat’s Magic Eraser. Instagram’s new Rewind mode plays videos in reverse, just like one of Snapchat’s oldest filters.

The most original new Instagram feature is the ability to type a hashtag and add it to your Stories posts as a sticker, just like a location sticker. When viewers tap on these stickers, they’ll be taken to the Instagram hashtag page showing other public, permanent posts with that hashtag. Eventually, though, you could imagine the ability to search Stories by hashtag, or watch a “Hashtag Story” compiled from all the publicly visible Stories with that label. Instagram actually just started testing Location Stories.

Instagram’s new eraser, rewind mode and Stories hashtags

Face filters for adults too

“There’s a lot of exciting work being done around augmented reality,” an Instagram spokesperson said when asked about the app copying Snapchat’s face filters. “We’ve heard from our community that they want more creative ways to share everyday moments and engage with friends. With face filters, they have more tools than ever at their fingertips, and all in one place.”

While that dodges the question a bit, the last part is revealing. Instagram wants to be the one-stop shop for visual communication, no matter your age. Instagram’s spin on Snapchat’s selfie masks is designed to make them simple and less wacky so they appeal to users beyond teens. If you’re not into Stories, you can also use Face Filters with Instagram Direct and Boomerang, as well as images you might want to post to the main feed.

Instead of needing to know you tap on the screen to activate face filters like in Snapchat, Instagram steals that access point so it’s intuitive for veteran mask users, but also adds a Smiley button to reveal the tray of 8 filters along the bottom of the screen.

“The designs and specific filters were built by the Instagram team,” says the Instagram spokesperson. But referring to the AR startup Facebook acquired last year, they noted that “The underlying technology uses MSQRD’s imaging technology and proprietary technology from Facebook’s applied machine learning teams.”

Instagram wouldn’t share whether the available filters will expand, rotate or come and go, but they did say “we’ll be bringing more face filters to the community on a regular basis.” Here’s a brief overview of the initial set:

  • Gold Crown – A Caesar-style golden wreath around you head, this filter is subtle and universal enough to be a good introduction to filters.
  • Koala – This cute filter adds a Koala nose and ears that raise in surprise when you open your mouth, though it falls short of being as adorable as Snapchat’s iconic puppy filter.
  • Nerd Glasses – This one swirls math equations around your head, can appear on two people at once and features glasses that slip down your nose if you tilt forward.
  • Bunny – Another attempt at beating Snapchat’s puppy filter, these ears raise in surprise when you open your mouth, and react to gravity by folding over if you learn side to side.
  • Butterfly Crown – Instagram’s attempt at Snapchat’s Coachella-favorite flower crown puts a wreathe of butterflies on your head that flitter off as you move.
  • Ice Crown – You exhale steam as snowflakes flurry around with this ice crown.
  • Peacock – Giant purple feathers in the foreground shield you from view until they’re pulled aside to reveal you, when you lean forward, looking like a 1930s flapper.
  • Makeup – Instagram’s final face filter washes a golden hue over you, smoothing your wrinkles so you look more “beautiful.”

Overall, the filters are meant to subtly augment your face rather than completely cover it or change its shape like some of Snapchat’s more aggressive filters do. While that makes them less playful and noticeable, they’re also more artful and mature — something that adults might actually use.

For now Instagram won’t allow Sponsored Face Filters, but those could come eventually to rival Snapchat’s similar ad unit. With all the most popular Snapchat Stories features successfully cloned, the smaller things left include adding 3D augmented reality objects to the world around you.

Now things should get more interesting as Instagram will have to do more innovating as it’s run out of stuff to copy.