Instagram has announced a new update for Stories, their Snapchat-cloning narrative option unveiled back in August. And while the new update continues their Snapchat copying efforts, bringing an alternative for Snapchat's Geofilters into the mix, Instagram's also added a few other helpful tools which provide additional functionality, and may, eventually, become the building blocks of a tool that's better than Snapchat's options.
Here's what's been added.
First up, Instagram's added Stickers, with a "special set of 12 holiday stickers available for the next few weeks", in addition to the existing emoji options.
As part of the new Stickers set, you can also use the new Geofilter-like location, time and weather option to add more context to your posts. And while they're more limited than Snapchat's tools - which provide specific filters triggered by location and artist-created overlays - they do add another similar element, and take away one more differentiating factor between the two options.
To use the new stickers, you tap on the Stickers icon as normal after you've taken your photo/video.
In there you'll see a new listing of the latest sticker options, including the location filters.
You can then add them as you choose - if you add in the location one, you'll be asked to switch on Location Services for the app, if you've not already done so, then you'll be given a list of location options to choose from. You can then display the location name in black and white or Instagram rainbow, along with time and weather.
It's a far more basic variation of Snapchat's Geofilter tools, but an interesting option nonetheless. If a viewer taps on any location sticker in your story, they'll be taken to a feed of Instagram photos from that place, while you can also change the time display to a digital clock or an alarm clock, while the weather can display the actual temperature or the forecast.
And one other addition for the holidays - a candy cane brush so you can decorate your images with long trails of red and white sweets.
Hands Free Video
Instagram has also added a new, one-touch, hands-free video mode, which is something Snapchat doesn't offer.
The option, as displayed above, will benefit artists and the like who need both hands available to be able to present their content.
As per Instagram:
"Whether you're frosting a cake, or showing off a new product in action, there's no need to press and hold."
It adds another consideration to the process, expanding your creative options.
Instagram's also removing the limit on text boxes in your Stories content. Up till now, you've only been able to add one text box per image, but now, you can place text all over your Stories content if you wish.
And the last addition of today's update is a new option to save your Stories to your Camera Roll as a single video, as opposed to a series of clips.
Some interesting and beneficial additions to the process - nothing mind-blowing, but tools that bring Stories more in parity with Snapchat Stories, and begin to provide additional functionality not available on the originating platform.
And that's where Instagram, and parent company Facebook, will be looking in 2017. Right now, Instagram Stories has gained traction, Instagram's audience have attuned themselves to having Stories in their feed - I mean, they must have, Instagram's added 100 million new users in the last six months. But now comes the tricky part - to really make Stories into a more significant option, they need to add new tools and options that not only duplicate Snapchat, but which overtake the yellow ghost in terms of innovation and, ideally, cool factor.
This is where Snapchat, thus far, has excelled. They've released industry leading innovations like Lenses which alter your face on screen, and Geofilters, which, as noted, are still significantly more advanced than this new option from Instagram. And while Facebook has launched similar tools, they're, at best, on par with Snapchat, but they haven't yet taken over.
A new Messenger mask on the left, a Snapchat Lens on the right
Facebook has the capacity to create better tools, and they are working on innovations that could take them beyond what Snapchat offers, but right now, Snapchat still leads the way in terms of functionality and fun. If Snapchat can keep adding tools that get people talking and sharing with friends, they'll stay ahead of the pack, but given the moves Facebook has made in 2016, you'd expect that they'll be looking to beat out Snapchat in the new year by providing advanced toptions beyond Snapchat's capacity.
If they can do that, Snapchat will come under significant pressure, with focus then shifting to Spectacles and what the company can do with wearables to make them a must-have option. But then again, as noted, Snapchat's stayed ahead of the game thus far.
Facebook's clearly coming for them, and these new tools put them right up there, in line with Snapchat's tools and options. But the race is far from over yet.