Remember when Instagram Stories launched, and everyone thought it was pretty much just like Snapchat? Well, that’s about to change.
It might have started off as a straight up clone of that other ephemeral social network, but today it’s getting an update that turns it into something more of its own — and that’s exciting. The changes are an interesting move to integrate the app more with Instagram’s ecosystem, and giving users more freedom when creating their stories.
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About a year ago, Instagram launched Boomerang, a quirky app to create looping one-second videos and easily share them to your friends. When creating a new story, you can now swipe to a new mode that lets you shoot a burst of photos, turning it into a looping video you can share with one tap.
Even though the company has been trying to push downloads for Boomerang, it’s now putting the app in front of user’s faces, offering them more creative way to share their life.
Another improvement is the addition of @-mentions, making it possible to tag friends in a story. It’s pretty simple — you just add text to a story and type ‘@’ followed by someone’s username. A push notification is then sent to that account’s messages inbox to let them know they’ve been tagged.
Also, when you view a story with mentions in them, tapping them brings up a pop-up to the tagged user’s profile. This makes it easier to connect the Instagram community with shared stories.
This is one of the more interesting changes, but unfortunately it won’t be available for everyone just yet. As of now, it’s a test that lets verified accounts add a link to outside content to add extra context. By swiping up from the story or tapping ‘see more’ it opens up the in-app browser. For example, a food blog might link to a recipe and a news outlet could link to an article they’ve written.
Personally, I’ve liked Instagram Stories right from the beginning. Its responsive interface, clean design and integration with Instagram’s existing social network made me quickly switch from Snapchat.
Today’s update looks like a great addition to the existing product and they’re paving the way to something that’s decidedly different. It’s leveraging the social network’s existing strengths and combining them by relaxing its rules on links within the app, which were only allowed in a profile’s bio before today.