Airbnb quietly launches its own Stories for users to build video montages of their travels

The stories format has been one of the most sticky features of social apps like Snapchat and Instagram, letting users stitch together video, photo and text overlays to convey moods and experiences to friends and followers; even Google has incorporated stories into its services. Now Airbnb is becoming the latest adopter of the format: the travel and accommodations startup has quietly launched a new feature called Travel Stories, a way for guests to create video sequences of their Airbnb experiences to post on the site.

The company has sent out invitations for a beta of the service to a pool of users (pictured below, sent to us by reader Matteo Gamba, who runs an Airbnb blog). A FAQ page about the new format says that for now Story making is only available on the latest version of its iPhone app, under the Travel Stories tab of your profile. Video clips are limited to 10 seconds each and are taken from your camera roll and can be edited in the Airbnb app.

You can then look at the Stories either directly on Airbnb’s site, or through the Travel Stories tab in the app. In both cases, these are similar to extended travelog slideshows, and they appear to automatically link up to places featured in the Stories, along with related accommodations. Here’s one about a trip to Cuba.

I’ve reached out to Airbnb to see if I can get more information about this. One big question I have is how and if Airbnb will vet what people post as stories. If the content is NSFW, or if it’s extremely insulting about a home a person has stayed in, for example, will that still get posted? Also, will users be able to import and export stories to other platforms?

So far I’ve had only the following reply:

“We’re always testing new ways to help our community members tell their stories, and this is one idea we are exploring,” said a spokesperson. “We don’t have any announcements to make, but we’re excited to continue looking at ways that help Airbnb hosts and guests share their travel experiences.”

Stories can serve a couple of purposes for Airbnb when they are rolled out more widely. They could become another way of creating more engaged feedback from visitors of a particular destination or experience or property, and this in turn could be another way of getting subsequent users to also book the same experiences, and even refer to the site while on those trips for tips. “Airbnb stories are for inspiring other travelers like yourself!” as the company notes. 

And it’s another way of drawing in the story makers themselves to use the Airbnb app more.

Airbnb has been on a long-term mission to increase the stickiness of its platform. The aim is to make it more than a place that you visit once in a while, when you are planning at trip. That has led to the company launching experiences — events that you might get involved in without even leaving the city you live in — as well concierge-style services to help guide you around while you are on your trip; and other travel services to get you to and from your destination.

The company is expected also to launch in the coming weeks and months a loyalty program, also for the same end. There haven’t been many details released about how it will work, but one potential route it could take is to create a platform where you can make leisure activity and travel purchases through the Airbnb platform to accrue points for discounts on future Airbnb purchases, much like current air miles/points programs.

Stories is arguably part of the same strategy. By creating a trove of travel content that links users back through to the Airbnb platform, Airbnb is creating something that is aimed at entertaining its users, while at the same time providing some practical functionality in the form of links to places. It will be interesting to see if Airbnb manages to get people to shift their behavior to think of Airbnb as a place where people might come to browse, and not just purchase.
Updated with a comment from Airbnb