Instagram is launching its answer to Snapchat geofilters, offering a way to spice up your photos and videos with Stickers that display basic location names, time, weather, and emoji. There’s also limited-time seasonal graphics like Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs, and a holiday candy cane paint brush.
Instagram is also launching Story saving for downloading your last 24-hours of updates in the audience viewer, just like Snapchat. Plus there’s now unlimited text boxes for Stories instead of just one per image, and a one-touch hands-free video recording option to attract performers like guitarists who need both hands that you can swipe to from the Stories camera selector. The features start rolling out today on iOS and Android.
The new features give Instagram the fun and flexibility needed to start catching up with Snapchat as it tries to close the gap between their creative tools. Instagram is meanwhile widening the separation between its purer color filters-only permanent feed, and its anything-goes ephemeral Stories canvas.
Instagram refused to comment on whether it plans to offer sponsored stickers as a revenue generator, artist-drawn location stickers, or a platform for submitting sticker designs. It only shared that “we’re working on more creative tools that will launch over the coming months…to give our community more fun and versatile options.”
I got access to Instagram’s new creative tools yesterday, and there’s more than meets the eye — literally.
Hands-On With Instagram Stickers
You access the Stickers by tapping the Smiley icon at the top of the Stories camera screen after you’ve shot a photo or video. This reveals a tray of available stickers. For location, you can search for anywhere in Instagram’s Places database to turn that store, landmark, neighborhood, or city into a Sticker. Location stickers can be tapped to take users to a feed of permanent photos from that place.
Unlike Snapchat, which features artist-drawn geofilters that are only available while you’re nearby in their geofences, you’re free to add locations from anywhere around the world. But the location stickers aren’t unique illustrations like Snapchat’s, they just come in two standard fonts, white or purple gradient, that you swap between by tapping. Instagram has sacrificed style for scalability, so any place can be a Sticker, but none really stand out.
Along with location, the time, weather, and some of the seasonal stickers can be tapped to change their design. You can see the time as an analog clock, old-school alarm clock, or modern digital clock, while the weather can show the temperature or the forecast too. Seasonal stickers like the Christmas tree can be tapped to replace the traditional pine with a palm tree or cactus.
Instagram refused to provide information about the future of Stickers, such as whether it would sell Sponsored Stickers ads, add artist-drawn location stickers for popular places, or let users submit their own stickers designs. A spokesperson merely said “We’re working on more creative tools that will launch over the coming months…to give our community more fun and versatile options.”
While Snapchat notoriously refuses to give special treatment to celebrities that bring it fans, Instagram has been happy to work with them to provide tutorials, assist with account recovery, and take feedback. Now with the hands-free recording option, it can even better court musicians and other creators. If these performers like Instagram’s features better, they could switch over or start prioritizing Instagram, bringing along their legions of fans.
Instagram still lacks selfie masks popularized by Snapchat. Facebook certainly has the firepower to create them, after acquiring mask-maker MSQRD and recently adding them to its main Facebook app and Messenger. If Instagram can use its parent company’s immense resources to achieve creative tool parity with Snapchat, it will dismantle one of the last things making Snapchat an obviously more expressive tool for sharing your day-to-day life.
Instagram Stories raced to 100 million daily users just 2 months after launching what CEO Kevin Systrom admitted was a Snapchat Stories copy-cat. Now, by combining Instagram’s 600 million monthly user base that dwarfs Snapchat’s, Stories’ placement right at the top of the highly used Instagram feed, and rapidly improving creative tools, Instagram’s cloning efforts could pay off handsomely.