In a rather bizarre development, Instagram is currently testing out a new feature, changing the way its userbase views Stories, as first spotted by Alessandro Paluzzi, a mobile app researcher. Instead of swiping left and right in order to switch from story to story, Vertical Stories as the purported feature has been referred to, will allow users to swipe up and down.
While this recent feature doesn’t exactly come off at the next social media revolution, it’s addition is rather puzzling. Stories is a function that, despite being more or less purloined from Snapchat, perfectly fits into the Instagram layout just as it is. It fits perfectly with the app’s reliance on users posting pictures and videos as opposed to text-based material in order to engage on the social media platform. Swiping left and right was just an easy way that users could differentiate between Stories and the normal, vanilla Insta timeline.
It’s recent addition also begs the question, “why now?” Instagram and it’s naive userbase have been rather happily engaging with the Stories feature for years. In fact, considering the development of muscle memory, the actual transition from left and right to up and down will undoubtedly take take both time and a decent amount of frustration towards changing a feature that really didn’t necessitate changing.
That latter concern can be addressed in a rather simple word, however. That word being “testing”. Instagram is only testing a prototype version of this feature, rolled out to a painfully limited number of its community. Beta testing for such features itself can take quite a lot of time. Twitter, for example, took around a year as it tested the addition of threaded replies to its interface, only to ultimately decide against it. Instagram’s been rather silent on the matter until now, making all surrounding discourse speculative at best.
An interesting parallel that users can draw with the Vertical Stories feature is between it and the interface of almost every other social media app out there, such as Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Instagram’s own feed, and Snapchat’s own snaps. A particular comparison, however, can be made with TikTok with it’s up and down scrolling interface that is also made up of short-form videos.
It’s no secret that Instagram’s trying to offer active competition to the Gen Z darling, with the incorporation of features such as Reels (an endeavor that Instagram’s own head, Adam Mosseri, admitted to be inferior to TikTok). Maybe this rather sudden development of Vertical Stories, even if they are never integrated, is simply a further extension of that, building upon a format that the younger and more tech-savvy generation clearly seems to resonate with.