Facebook isn’t backing down from Stories despite criticism that it copied Snapchat and that Instagram Stories is enough. Instead, it’s committed to figuring out how to adapt the slideshow format into the successor to the status update. That’s why today the company is launching three significant tests that make Facebook Stories a default way to share.
“The way people share and connect is changing; it’s quickly becoming more real-time and visual. We’re testing new creative tools to bring pictures and videos to life, and introducing easier ways to find and share stories,” a Facebook spokesperson told me.
Meanwhile, Facebook has been fixing the biggest problems with its Stories: redundancy between Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Now you can set your Instagram Stories to automatically be reposted to your Facebook Story, and Stories on Facebook and Messenger sync with each other. That means you can just post to Instagram and have your Story show up on all three apps. That way if you want extra views or to include friends who aren’t Insta-addicts, you can show them your Story with no extra uploads.
It was a year ago that Facebook rolled out Stories. But Facebook has so many features that it has to make tough decisions about which to promote and which to bury. It often launches features with extra visibility at first, but forces them to grow popular on their own before giving them any additional attention.
Facebook is vulnerable to competitors if it doesn’t make Stories work, and users may eventually grow tired of the News Feed full of text updates from distant acquaintances. But Instagram Stories and WhatsApp’s version Status have both grown to more than 250 million daily users, showing there’s obviously demand for this product if Facebook can figure out how Stories fit in its app.
Hence, these tests:
If Facebook finds these tests prove popular, they could roll out everywhere and make Stories a much more central part of the app’s experience. Facebook will have to avoid users feeling like Stories are getting crammed down their throats. But the open camera, Stories default and bigger previews all disappear with a quick tap or swipe.
The fact is that the modern world of computing affords a very different type of social media than when Facebook launched 14 years ago. Then, you’d update your status with a line of text from your desktop computer because your phone didn’t have a good camera (or maybe even the internet), screens were small, mobile networks were slow and it was tough to compute on the go. Now with every phone equipped with a great camera, a nice screen, increasingly fast mobile networks and everyone else staring at them all the time, it makes sense to share through photos and videos you post throughout the day.
This isn’t a shift driven by Facebook, or even really Snapchat. Visual communication is an inevitable evolution. For Facebook, Stories aren’t an “if,” just a “how.”