Instagram tests Location Stories

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Instagram wants to let you see everything going on somewhere right now. TechCrunch has discovered that Instagram is testing a new Location Stories feature that compiles publicly shared Instagram Stories posts tagged with a location sticker. Users can then visit that business, landmark, or place’s Instagram page and watch a slideshow Story of posts from there shared by strangers they don’t already follow.

This feature sees Instagram leveraging its old permanent content to power a feature Snapchat doesn’t have. Instagram has long had Location pages showing non-ephemeral posts tagged there. But now it’s added the Location story there.

The closest thing Snapchat has is the new Stories Search feature it’s testing. But it relies on metadata, machine vision object recognition, and the free-form text people add to Snaps to surface content. Instagram’s standardized location database that powers location stickers will make it easier to both add to a unified Location Story and watch them too.

Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that this is a new feature in testing. When I asked Instagram VP of Product Kevin Weil about it on stage, here’s what he told me:

Today Instagram also launched the ability to add hashtag stickers to Stories, which could potentially lead to Hashtag Stories.

There are plenty of use cases for both. You could discover the best photo opportunities at a landmark and get creative ideas for what to do when you visit. You could see if a bar is full and lively, or if a band has gone on stage yet before you show up. You could even use it to check the real-time, hyperlocal weather somewhere.

Long-term, Location Stories could become a revenue driver too if Instagram let brands pay to insert ads there, or curate what appears in their Story. Simultaneously, the feature presents a moderation problem, as it exposes users to the content of strangers. Instagram will have to rely on machine vision and user flagging to weed out offensive posts.

We’ve reached an exciting moment. As of today, Instagram has copied that last major Snapchat Stories feature. Now we may get to see it start innovating more on the medium, racing to where Snapchat’s limited resources won’t let it reach yet.

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