Instagram Founder Admits He Blatantly Stole Stories From Snapchat
Snapchat loyalists just got some vindication about the shady tactics Instagram used to compete with the original ephemeral photo sharing app.
Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger spoke on a keynote panel at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival on Monday. In conversation with TechCrunch editor-at-large Josh Constine, Systrom and Krieger recounted what led them to add "Instagram Stories"to the platform in 2016.
The two discussed their desire at the time to "increase authenticity" and capture more moments of life. But Systrom was also surprisingly blunt when he shared another factor that inspired Instagram to add Stories.
"For a long time, people’s profiles were filled with Snapchat links," Systrom said. "It was clear people were trying to bridge the two products. So we gave them what they wanted."
Systrom is pointing out the phenomenon that in the time before Instagram added stories (2016), and after Snapchat launched stories (in 2013), Instagram users were posting links to their Snapchat stories on their Instagrams. This showed the Instagram team that Stories were a feature that people "wanted." So Instagram just gave that feature to them — by building a version of Snapchat's stories of their own. What an interesting way to describe copying someone else's idea!
Instagram has long been criticized for the way it appeared to copy Snapchat stories. But here, Systrom acknowledges that reality outright.
Snapchat launched Stories in 2013. The feature wasn't an immediate success, but eventually grew to prominence; as of Snap's 2017 IPO, 25 percent of all Snaps captured were for Stories. Fueled by the growth of Our Stories, AR lenses, and a truly original feature in Stories, Snap's users grew and analysts said it was poised for a user "explosion," leading to the launch of a highly coveted IPO in 2017.
But just before the IPO, Facebook (via Instagram) made its move. In late 2016, Instagram launched Stories, and soon after released more interactive features, also apparently directly inspired by Snapchat. Eventually, you could do everything on Instagram that you could on Snapchat, and it didn't take users long for users to catch on to Instagram stories: by early 2017, Instagram had 200 million daily story users, more than Snapchat's total daily active users.
Instagram's introduction of stories made the platform absolutely dominate Snapchat, even among their bread and butter users: teens. Now, not only is Stories one of the most popular features on Instagram, it is also central to Facebook.
At SXSW, Krieger said that Instagram introduced Stories to help people share "the moments between moments"; it was part of the company's efforts to share less of a "narrow punctuated moment" of life. That might be true, but Systrom's comments also make clear that Instagram developed stories for a much less esoteric reason: to keep their users from clicking those links over to Snapchat.