Instagram today is rolling out the option of saving your public live broadcasts to your Instagram story, where they can be replayed by your followers for the next 24 hours. Starting today, you can tap “share” after your broadcast has ended to add it to your Instagram story — or tap the toggle button to discard it. It’s a new feature for Instagram stories, which the company said today has 250 million daily users — up from 200 million in April. And it represents a new effort to kick-start a format that seems to have stalled across every social network.
Among the big live-streaming players, Instagram’s ephemeral streams are unique. As soon as you stop broadcasting, your video disappears forever. (Twitter’s Periscope started off this way, but eventually began enabling replays by default.) Instagram says average users are more comfortable making videos when the videos go away. But they don’t seem to be making those videos in large numbers — the company says only that “millions of people have used” the live-streaming feature, and hasn’t shared any other details — including how many of those millions ever used it more than once.
Users seem equally indifferent to live-streaming on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company. Facebook streams are saved to the profile by default, and despite a massive marketing campaign behind it, Facebook Live is still best known for intermittent broadcasts of police brutality and self-harm.
Saving broadcasts for 24 hours represents an intriguing middle path for live streaming. The video will last long enough for your closest friends to see it — they’re the ones who are checking your stories every day, after all — but disappears before it can come back to haunt you.
Maybe that helps Instagram build a critical mass of users — or maybe not. For a few months in 2015, it seemed as if live broadcasts would overtake social mediain the United States. But they didn’t, and the reason does not appear to be the length of time the videos were available for consumption. It has more to do with the question of why a person would broadcast in the first place. What makes a person want to talk with a random subset of their friends on a regular basis? It’s a question that that the big platforms have so far had enormous trouble answering. But the fact that no one has yet figured it out only gives companies like Instagram more reason to keep trying.