Instagram launches live streaming, disappearing media, as it takes on Snapchat

Instagram will delete the video from the user’s “story” once the broadcast is over. (Image: Marco Verch / CC BY 2.0)

Looking to establish the kind of media impermanence that Snapchat has already proven successful with its youthful target audience, Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram is adding self-deleting live video.

Given that Instagram now serves 500 million users, the introduction of live streaming is not a small matter. It marks the further evolution of social media as a video-sharing tool—and a competitor to video operators, traditional and digital alike.

The product will be similar to Periscope and Facebook Live in functionality. Available initially in select markets, it will allow Instagram users to broadcast live video streams by clicking on a “start live video” button. An indicator will then appear at the top of the user’s screen, so they can count their views and likes. 

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The major difference: Unlike Facebook Live, Instagram will delete the video from the user’s “story” once the broadcast is over. There is no archive of past transmissions. The new feature will be integrated into Instagram Stories, an extension to the platform launched over the summer that automatically deletes media after 24 hours.

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Instagram is also adding a feature that lets users send messages that disappear after they have been received. The investment is all aimed at better competing with Snapchat for younger users who don’t want anything—youthful indiscretions and otherwise—captured on their permanent record. 

Kevin Weil, head of product for Instagram, admits this feature was ripped right out of the playbook of Instagram competitor Snapchat. 

“Sometimes good ideas are good ideas,” he told Variety. “It’s a feature that makes sense to people.”

Snapchat surpassed 60 million users in the U.S. and Canada in September.