Instagram finally snags Snapchat’s beloved selfie lenses with new face filters feature

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Instagram introduced its disappearing Stories, a format created
by Snapchat, nine months ago. In that time, Stories has racked
up 200 million daily active users. Despite criticisms of
Instagram’s unoriginality, Stories have clearly been a success.
But they’ve been missing one feature that makes Snapchat such a
joy to use: the filters that transform your face. That changes
now.

In an
update rolling out to Instagram users today
, the Stories
camera has a new face icon with eight filters that transform
you into a different version of yourself. The koala and bunny
filters will definitely be a hit with kids, and there are
flower crowns for the teens. There aren’t quite as many filter
options to choose from, and it’s unclear if Instagram will
refresh its filters regularly like Snapchat does, but it’s not
a bad start. You can use the filters on both front-facing and
rear-facing shots.

instagram eraser brushInstagram

While face filters are the biggest addition, Instagram is also
putting some smaller, equally fun features into Stories. Rewind
joins Boomerangs as a quirky Instagram video format, letting
you shoot clips that play in reverse. Then there’s an eraser,
which disguises your photo or video and lets you drag a brush
to reveal certain parts of the shot. You can also add hashtags
to your Stories, so people can tap them to explore more tagged
content.

Instagram is experimenting more with tags, specifically
location tags.
TechCrunch
spotted a test that Instagram is doing around
place-based stories, so when you tap a location tag that
someone has added to their Story, you can see other Stories
added to that location. This is an Instagram original—Snapchat
has done Stories around special events and is testing a Story
Search function, but location-based Instagram Stories will
fully leverage Instagram’s robust location graph. People
already use Instagram’s location tags in the main feed to
explore cities and research new restaurants via photo and video
highlights, but location-based Stories will now let you see
more off-the-cuff content.

Why this matters: Instagram is much easier to
use than Snapchat is, and now that the app has adopted one of
Snapchat’s most popular Story features in selfie filters,
people who were using both apps may default to Instagram. The
location-based Stories test is a totally unique feature that
could make Instagram feel even more fresh (and even more
addictive). Snapchat’s first earnings report as a public
company didn’t go that well, so the app may be exploring ways
to stay competitive.

Snapchat copycat

Instagram isn’t bothered by the Snapchat comparisons (or even
the accusations of theft). The Facebook-owned company continues
to credit Snapchat with inventing the concept of Stories.

“This is the way the tech industry works,” Instagram product
head Kevin Weil said during a Tuesday talk at TechCrunch’s
Disrupt NY conference. “Good ideas start in one place, then
spread across the entire industry. It’s a format, and it’s
going to be adopted widely.”

He pointed to Pixar, which was the first to perfect
computer-animated films. Now computer animation is the
standard.

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