Instagram has unveiled two new features allowing users to broadcast live video on Instagram Stories and send disappearing photos and video messages to followers via direct messages. Announced on Monday (21 November), the Facebook-owned company's new ephemeral video and photo message feature is similar to that of photo-sharing rival Snapchat.
As part of Instagram's latest update, users will be able to send disappearing photos and videos directly to individual friends or groups by swiping right to open the camera, take a quick photo or video and tapping the arrow to send it privately. These photos and videos, unlike the usual messages sent in Instagram Direct, will disappear from your friends' inboxes after they have been viewed. To help distinguish between the disappearing direct messages and your normal ones, an outline will surround your contacts' icons. You will also be able to tell if a friend or follower has taken a screenshot of the media or replayed it.
Users will only be able to send temporary photos and videos to their followers, regardless of whether their account is private or public. The feature began rolling out globally to users on Monday.
According to Instagram, around 300 million people use the app's direct message feature globally, up from 80 million last year.
"Today's update keeps regular direct messages the same and adds a more visual way to connect with your closest friends - all in one convenient place," the company said in a blog post.
Built into its existing Stories feature, Instagram's new live video tool allows users to swipe right to open the camera and tap on the "Start Live Video" button to go live and broadcast video for up to an hour.
"In August, we introduced Instagram Stories as a way to share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile," the company wrote. "We've seen stories open up a new side of what people share on Instagram, and now over 100 million people use it every day." It added that its new live video feature will give users another way "to share freely and in the moment."
Viewers will see a "Live" badge on a contact's Instagram Stories icon when they are broadcasting live video at the moment and will disappear once they stop streaming. You can also see current live stories in a new section on "Explore" and select "Top Live" to view other interesting live stories being broadcast in real-time.
The live video tool will be rolled out globally over the next few weeks, the company said.
Earlier this month, CEO Kevin Systrom teased that a live video feature could "enhance" Instagram's current capabilities.
"Live is really exciting for us," Systrom said in an interview with the Financial Times. "I think it can enhance what we're doing. If I'm trying to strengthen relationships with someone I love, then streaming video to me live would be an amazing way to be closer to them."
Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg also emphasised the social media company's plans to put "video first across our family of apps" during an earnings call with analysts earlier in November.
Instagram recently introduced a few new features to Stories that let users add URL links to their stories and mention people using "@" followed by their username. It also brought Boomerang to the app, allowing users to create fun, Gif-like videos that loop forward and backwards endlessly within Instagram.
Regarding the company's latest move into disappearing messages - a feature that Snapchat is known for - Keven Weil, head of product at Instagram, told the New York Times that the company's improvements and adjustments showcased its innovation.
"The format is definitely something that Snapchat innovated on," Weil said. "But it's just like how hashtags started on Twitter and are used everywhere. I think this particular format is one that we will see adopted everywhere else."