An app stuck in a blow-by-blow competition with the rest of Silicon Valley’s greatest, Instagram, with its 600 million and growing users, has proven that it is a force to be reckoned with.
Their latest update to Instagram Live now allows users to save live videos for later viewing. The live videos will still disappear on the user’s stories after the stream however the difference here is there will be a Save button that provides users the liberty of later viewing.
This new feature is just one among the list of many unexpected turns that Instagram has taken and, so far, their risks have been paying off. CEO Kevin Systrom shared that it all started when they decided to go non-square (photos), and that this has been the most liberating move for the company so far, prompting them to add new innovations before even having to.
“It gave us more permission to try new things, to solve some problems we hadn’t invested in solving,” says Ian Spalter, Instagram’s head of design.
As director of product management Blake Barnes puts it, “In a lot of ways, in order to make sure the product continues to feel the same way to people, the product needs to change itself.”
Last year’s addition of Instagram Stories brought about a lot of heat with competitor Snapchat. When it first launched, there was plenty of buzz about it being Snapchat’s copycat – that is, until Facebook launched it on Messenger, the main Facebook app, and Whatsapp. However, Instagram’s take on the new format proved to be the most successful, garnering 150 million active daily users within just four months of launch. This number almost trumps Snapchat’s 158 million since they started.
On the number of functions in the app, Systrom says, “Hopefully, I won’t let us get to a point where we have too much in one app. I pride myself—and I know we pride ourselves—on making Instagram feel simple, direct, and to the point. But the second you start serving hundreds of millions of people, there are a lot of use cases that come that you didn’t have when you were serving 30 million people.”
“Brands, influencers, and celebrities, especially, already had a large built-in audience on Instagram,” says Nick Cicero, CEO of Delmondo, a social analytics provider and content studio. “And Snapchat is known as a difficult channel to build and grow an audience.”
Snapchat has yet to step up its game, especially when it comes to revenue-making aspects of the app. Although it has recently been open to advertisers, Instagram still has a huge lead as it’s linked with Facebook’s well-engineered ads manager.
“Productwise, we’re super-autonomous,” Systrom says. “And at the same time, we’re able to plug into an infrastructure that scales.”
Although it’s still too early to note Instagram’s long-term effect on Snapchat, it’s pretty safe to say that the tight competition between the two networks will continue for quite a while.