As shown above, if you head over to Instagram.com, you'll soon see a Stories bar across the top of the screen. Instead of swiping through, there'll be directional arrows on each Story frame for navigation.
Why does this matter?
Well, from Instagram's perspective it expands the availability of Stories to more users, particularly those in lower connectivity regions.
As reported by Bloomberg, the number of people accessing Instagram through the web is growing, which is particularly relevant in growth areas like India and South East Asia, where internet access can be restrictive. And with more than 80% of Instagram users located outside of the U.S., adding in more ways for users in these regions to connect and participate is a relatively simple and effective way for Instagram to expand their footprint.
And more than that, by expanding into these regions, Instagram's also working to fend off any rise in competition from Snapchat.
One of Facebook's key tactics for limiting Snap Inc. has been to ramp up their Snapchat-clone efforts in regions where Snapchat itself hasn't yet had a chance to gain a foothold - which is pretty much everywhere outside of developed, western markets. In fact, Snap Inc. has (allegedly) been fairly clear about its intentions not to expand into these regions, with a former employee saying that CEO Evan Spiegel wasn't interested in expanding into 'poorer' countries like India and Spain.
Snap Inc. has denied such claims, and they were made back in 2015 - no doubt they've had a re-assessment of their approach since then. But still, Snapchat does require a lot of processing power and bandwidth. Even if they're not intentionally ignoring these regions, the app remains a non-starter for many of these potential users.
Chart via Recode (as per Snap's Q1 numbers)
Fair to assume at least some percentage of those Stories viewers are coming from lesser developed regions.
In terms of additional use cases, Instagram also notes in their announcement that
"You'll also be able to post stories from mobile web in the coming months."
Cool, right? Soon you'll be able to post Stories direct from your desktop, rather than only from the mobile app, which could have significant implications for brand use.
Except, maybe not. According to The Verge, they've since confirmed with Instagram that this is not the case.
"Instagram says it has no plans to let users upload photos or Stories from the desktop."
So maybe that's not a possibility - but then again, if they were trying to expand the app's appeal to desktop users, they'd need posting functionality too, right?
But even if you're not technically able to post Stories from your desktop PC, the addition of Stories may provide a functional workaround. Back in May, when Instagram updated their desktop version, some enterprising users found that it is possible to upload images direct from desktop if you use the in-built emulator in Google Chrome.
It's not officially the way you're supposed to upload images to Instagram, but it works by simulating the mobile environment within your browser. With Stories available on desktop, it's possible that the same workaround will apply (we'll test this when we have the new desktop update available and add a note to this post).
Also worth noting, desktop Stories won't include ads - at least, not yet.
In other Instagram news, Facebook has announced that they're upgrading the Instagram API to Facebook's Graph API, while they're also adding new features to the Instagram Graph API "so businesses can monitor their presence on the app and also more effectively measure the performance of their organic content on third-party tools".
The new features include expanded comment moderation.
Desktop Stories are being rolled out from today and will be available to all users within the coming weeks.