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Instagram adds Snapchat-style feature just in time for Olympics

Instagram rolled out a big new feature on Tuesday, and a big-name Olympic athlete to use and promote it first.

The feature is called Stories and allows you to show shareable moments of your day in a condensed slideshow format that is separate from your Instagram profile.

Sound familiar? You might have seen it before… on Snapchat. Instagram also announced that the world’s No. 1 female tennis star Serena Williams will be the first athlete to promote the new feature by sharing her travels and preparations leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. (The first public figure to use it? That honor goes to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who shared a “story” with photos of his dog and baby.)

Might the addition of Stories cause users to go a little too crazy on Instagram and post too often? Instagram says no. In an announcement on its blog, Instagram tells users not to worry about over-posting and inundating their follows, because these stories appear in bubbles at the top of your regular Instagram feed. The row of bubbles will not follow as you scroll down through your feed; they stay at the very top. (Instagram calls it a “separate surface.”) Users can also choose to add the stories to their own profile, as with regular solo photos or videos.

Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, just like Snapchat’s. Instagram users can draw and add text to photos, just like on Snapchat. Tap on a friend’s bubble to see their story, keep tapping to view the next slides in their story, and swipe to see the next person’s story, just like on Snapchat. Swipe up on your own story to see who has viewed it, just like on Snapchat. If you want to comment on the story, do what you do on Snapchat: send a private message.

There are really only a couple of tiny differences between Instagram’s stories and Snapchat’s: Instagram allows you to fit much more text on top of a photo, and allows you to vary the thickness of the writing tool. Those are granular details, but could provide a competitive advantage.

Mark Zuckerberg’s first Instagram Story

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom does not deny that the idea came from Snapchat, and told TechCrunch in an interview, “They deserve all the credit.”

If the Instagram Stories feature is so similar to Snapchat Stories, you might think Instagram users will be skeptical, and maybe hesitant to use it. But with 500 million monthly active users on Instagram compared to the roughly 150 million daily active users on Snapchat, Instagram has an automatic edge; its users will likely at least try the new feature out.

Then again, Snapchat is predicted to grow 27% this year, a bigger growth rate than its social competitors Facebook and Pinterest are expected to see, according to eMarketer. Instagram is feeling the pressure to keep up. It already followed the footsteps of parent company Facebook back in June by rolling out targeted advertising tools for small businesses.

Announcing the new feature now, and with Serena Williams attached, is no coincidence. This is Instagram’s Olympics play; Facebook made one too, as did Snapchat.

“We expect both athletes and fans to take full advantage of using Instagram Stories to share their experiences at the Games,” says Instagram. Some athletes and fans, no doubt, will indeed use the feature. But will they use it more than Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat?

Minyoung Park is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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