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Instagram Adds Live Streaming, Disappearing Private Photos

Facebook-owned Instagram continues to take cues from other popular mobile apps with the addition of two major new features: Instagram users can now share private photos that disappear after the recipient has viewed them with each other, and the service is also starting to make live video streaming available in select markets.

Live video streams will become part of Instagram Stories, a recently-launched Snapchat-like feature that allows the sharing of quick snapshots and short video clips. “Live video felt like an inevitable step for Stories,” said Instagram Product Manager Shilpa Sarkar. The live streaming experience itself is very similar to Periscope, or Facebook’s own Live streaming feature for that matter, in that the launch of a live stream automatically triggers a notification to one’s followers.

Users can chat with a broadcaster, and also send them hearts to show their appreciation. Broadcasters can exclude individual users from their live streams, and every live stream automatically disappears after it’s over — there is no archive for past transmissions. Sarkar said that the lack of a permanent record was important to Instagram’s audience, which she said was as much about teenagers live streaming to a handful of their friends as Instagram stars looking to reach thousands of followers.

Privately shareable disappearing photos is in a way also an extension of Stories. Anything shared on Stories automatically disappears from the service after 24 hours. Now, it’s also possible to share media in a similar fashion without a permanent record via Instagram Direct, the app’s direct messaging section.

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Instagram’s head of product Kevin Weil said that the goal of both live streaming and private disappearing photos were all about broadening the scope of the service. “Instagram should be a platform for all your moments,” he told Variety, arguing that Instagram had over the past few years turned into a highly curated service for people’s best photos, and that these new additions would allow for more intimate and less polished experiences.

Of course, ephemeral private photo sharing in particular is a direct dig on Snapchat, and Weil readily admitted taking some cues from the competitor. “Sometimes good ideas are good ideas,” he said. “It’s a feature that makes sense to people.”

That’s pretty much the same argument Weil used in August when Instagram first launched Stories. And as much as Instagram’s new features do look familiar, they seem to be working for the service’s user base. More than 100 million people use Instagram Stories every single day, according to the company.

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