Instagram Updates Put Users in the Middle of Current Events

About 70 million photos and videos are posted daily to Instagram. This week the Facebook-owned service began tapping into that content to provide its 300 million users with the feeling of being part of current events as they unfold live. An updated Explore button, working with the service’s algorithms, will take Instagram users to the most important and timely imagery in their regions and across the nation — from live sports and concerts to breaking news. Instagram has also made it easier to find images via its search function and will feature hand-selected collections for content discovery.

The stream of photos and videos will come from celebrities and ordinary users of the service. The update will first appear in U.S. versions of the app.

Instagram1“We’re unlocking a new capability in the world,” said Kevin Systrom, chief exec and co-founder of Instagram. “It is allowing our community to connect to the world as it happens.”

“It sounds a lot like Project Lightning, a set of improvements that Twitter plans for the fall to highlight top content on timely topics, chosen by human editors, to supplement its standard reverse-chronological feed of Twitter posts,” reports The New York Times.

The model will face a number of challenges. “Text on Instagram is limited to captions, which cannot be searched,” notes NYT. “So finding the right images depends largely on hashtags. And while many celebrities and even political leaders use Instagram, it is far from the public square that Twitter has become.”

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, suggested the Instagram update would more likely compete with Snapchat than with Twitter.

“The way that it’s set up, it doesn’t feel as immediate as Twitter does, and it doesn’t feel as necessary as Twitter does,” she said. “Twitter still has the lead there. Where Instagram could be interesting is more on the entertainment side — think celebrities, fashion shows.”

Why Snapchat and Instagram Should Make Twitter Very Nervous, Business Insider, 6/23/15
Project Lightning: Twitter’s Secret Plan to Bring Live Events to its Platform, Mashable, 6/19/15

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