Instagram is rolling out a new feature that could give its app a more TikTok-like feel: vertical Stories. Today, users navigate Stories via horizontal taps and swipes, a feature Instagram adopted from Snapchat. But now, Stories are passé. Even Snapchat is borrowing ideas from TikTok. Its recently launched Spotlight, for example, is its own TikTok clone.
In many ways, vertical swiping feels more natural than horizontal taps and swipes. After all, it’s how users navigate much of the mobile web, as well as other key functions in a variety of social apps, such as Facebook’s News Feed or YouTube’s home page.
That said, turning Instagram Stories into a vertical feed would be a notable change, and one that could set the stage for a shift away from more static content, such as the photos and shared Feed posts that still often fill the Stories section today. In a “vertical Stories” feed, on the other hand, Instagram would likely prioritize video posts over images to better compete with TikTok, just as it is currently tweaking its algorithms and overall design.
The thought is a simple user interface with text that reads, “You can now swipe up and down to search for stories” and then a big blue button called “Vertical Stories.”
Instagram confirmed that the feature is being built, but is not available to the public at this time. “This is an early prototype and is not currently being tested on Instagram,” a company spokesperson said.
A prototype may never make it to a public release, of course, but its existence says something about what kind of ideas Instagram is considering as a means of offering a better challenge to TikTok.
The company’s TikTok rival, Reels, was included on the platform via Instagram’s Explore page, where Reels takes the top spot. When the video is clicked, it takes you to a new user interface where you then vertically swipe through videos, similar to TikTok.
This doesn’t feel right, and the launch of the new format added to Instagram’s clutter. Today, the app has all sorts of places where users can post their videos, including in the Feed, as Stories, as longer-form IGTV content, and now Reels.
Instagram knows that this arrangement doesn’t quite work. As Instagram head Adam Mosseri recently told The Verge, most people probably don’t even understand the difference between IGTV content and videos posted on Instagram, for example. He said the company was also looking for ways to simplify and consolidate its ideas.
While their comments focused on the confusion between regular Instagram video posts and IGTV, there is also significant overlap between vertical video content in Instagram Stories and photos. A “vertical stories” feed could allow for an eventual combination of those formats.
However, it’s not clear that’s at all what Instagram has in mind. The social network could be looking to transition another part of its app to the more modern vertical feed as demand for the traditional Stories format wanes.