Photo Credit: picjumbo
While many people still think of Instagram as a photo-sharing app, there have been a number of major changes to Instagram over the past two years that has it looking more and more like Snapchat. Yes, that’s right, over the past 24 months, Instagram has been steadily cloning all of Snapchat’s top features, and now the final piece in the strategy might be the inclusion of voice and video chat features.
Voice and video chat is all about engagement
The big reason to embrace voice and video chat, of course, is to boost overall engagement with Instagram users. For example, any time you open up the Instagram app, you can see both Instagram Stories (collections of photos and videos that disappear 24 hours after being published) and the newest photos and videos published by people you follow. After checking these out, and perhaps leaving a few comments, many people then exit the app and move on to the next step in their social media cycle (i.e. checking their Twitter feed). But what if there were a way to keep users within the Instagram app experience even longer?
Presumably, a video chat feature would enable you to call up people that you are following and have a brief chat about the cool new Instagram Stories you’ve been seeing in your feed. In short, Instagram would encourage you to have conversations about what you’re seeing, and not exit the app to have those conversations. That would be a big win for Instagram engagement.
Instagram voice and video chat prototypes already exist
You might not realize it, but Instagram has a partner standalone app called Instagram Direct that already has some of these capabilities. For example, you can send photos and videos to individual users within Instagram Direct. You can think of this as a precursor or prototype of what now exists within Snapchat, which is all about sending photos (“snaps”) back and forth with your friends. So, if you buy into the argument that the goal of Instagram is to destroy Snapchat once and for all, then it only makes sense that voice and video chat is coming.
In fact, certain enterprising sleuths have already found evidence that Instagram is, indeed, building this new functionality. Poking through lines and lines of code, they have found references to “call” and “video call.” So maybe this functionality is coming sooner than anyone originally expected. If you consider how much money Facebook (the owner of Instagram) has to put behind this initiative, it almost seems inevitable.
Is this the end of Snapchat as we know it?
If Instagram does push ahead with this strategy, it would be very bad news for Snapchat. Consider for a moment that Instagram Stories now has more daily active users – 300 million – than the TOTAL number of users at Snapchat (just south of 200 million). So it’s already clear that Instagram, with every new cloned feature from Snapchat, has been siphoning away users. It’s gotten to the point, in fact, that social media influencers are starting to distance themselves from Snapchat. So if Instagram does roll out new voice and video chat features, get prepared for a deluge of “This is the end of Snapchat” articles in the mainstream media. Snapchat, it was nice knowing you.