Instagram Stories, the Snapchat clone that is designed to let Instagram users share what they're doing with their followers, now has 500 million daily active users, Facebook announced during its latest earnings call on Wednesday. The latest benchmark is roughly half of Instagram's total user base of over a billion users and is significantly increased from 400 million daily active user count reported back in June last year. CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the earnings call stated that the feature continued to grow at a fast pace. The executive also highlighted the Stories format, which got expanded from Instagram to Facebook's native social networking platform and the Messenger app as well as reached to WhatsApp in the form of Status, is aiming to monetise "at the same levels" as the News Feed.
Instagram Stories was launched as an integrated feature on the photo-sharing platform back in 2016. The initial aim of the feature was to enable Instagram users to share multiple shots or videos into a single video that can be shared with followers. This was similar to how people share their memories on Snapchat. However, Facebook of late started using Stories to generate some revenue.
In March last year, Instagram Stories got support for full-screen ads. The Menlo Park, California-headquartered company also in June enabled a shopping feature on Stories to enable companies to sell their products through creative stories.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in the earnings call underlined that Instagram Stories generated over 25 percent of new customer sales for Washington DC-based online custom picture frame maker Framebridge. Sandberg also highlighted that companies such as Cetaphil used Instagram Stories to target their customers and increased their store sales. "Today, we're also announcing that 2 million advertisers are using Stories to reach customers across our family of apps. We're making it easier for advertisers to adopt their campaigns for Stories," she added.
While Stories across all its products emerged as a strong source of revenue, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg emphasised that there are plans to bring new products to bring "major improvements to people's lives." He highlighted that WhatsApp Payments, which is currently at its testing stage in India, is set to be rolled out to some more countries this year. Private sharing in Groups and Stories is also set to become more central to the overall Facebook experience, the executive stated.
Zuckerberg also highlighted that there are plans to messaging the centre of users' social experience in new ways. Further, he stated that Facebook projected to bring "millions of more businesses that people can interact with."
"We're going to get to a point soon where people feel like Facebook is about as communities as it - is about communities as much as it's about your friends and family where almost everyone is in a group that's meaningful to them and that community is a central part of their experience," asserted Zuckerberg.
Facebook is also in plans to make its Watch offering mainstream. Zuckerberg revealed that 400 million users access Facebook Watch every month and, on an average, spend over 20 minutes per day. "This means we're finding ways for video to grow outside of News Feed so it doesn't displace the social interactions that people primarily come to our services for," he said.
Zuckerberg also forecast that commerce and shopping experiences on Instagram would reach new levels this year alongside a large amount of natural activity. As AR and VR are the two emerging areas of focus for Facebook, the company is also set to start shipping Oculus Quest to expand its presence in the world of immersive experience.
While briefing the analysts, Zuckerberg also mentioned that more than 90 million small businesses are using Facebook's products. "And of those, we surveyed, half tell us that they've been able to grow their businesses and hire more people since joining Facebook. This means they're using our services to create millions of jobs, and this is one of the most important contributions that we feel we can make to the world," the executive stated.
Last week, Mike Isaac of The New York Times reported that Facebook is planning to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger and add end-to-end encryption into all the three messaging products. When Zuckerberg was asked during the earnings call to give clarity on the new development, he explained the company was aiming to improve the user experience through the unification, without seeking any major commercial benefit. The move was also confirmed to be a long-term project.
"The first reason that I'm excited about this is moving more to end-to-end encryption by default in more of our products," said Zuckerberg. "People really like this in WhatsApp. I think it's the direction that we should be going in with more things in the future. And I think if there's an opportunity to use the work that we've done with WhatsApp there, rather than doing it in different ways in the different messaging experiences, to have that really just - to have encryption work in a consistent way across the different things that we're doing."
Facebook on Wednesday revealed a consolidated figure of 2.7 billion monthly users across its family, including the Facebook site as well as Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. CFO David Wehner affirmed that it was expected that family metrics would play the primary role in explaining the company and would eventually help phase out Facebook-only community metrics. "We believe these numbers better reflect the size of our community and the fact that many people are using more than one of our services," said Wehner.