Instagram launches 4-way video chat (and more!)

Well, it looks like developers at Instagram’s HQ have been super busy. Last week we spoke about the launch of Instagram Lite, today we’ll be looking at the new video chat feature that lets you have a 4-way conversation while still browsing through Instagram, the Explore section revamp, and custom AR lenses.

Firstly, let’s talk group video chat. Is this yet another dig to rival Snapchat and FaceTime? Of course it is! While Snapchat allows a 16-person group chat, FaceTime plans on supporting up to 32 people (I mean, really? Imagine an all-girl group chat? It’s ok, I’m a girl, I speak from experience!). Instagram’s video group chat is available through the Instagram Direct tab with up to four people at a time. It only works with friends you already have an active Direct thread with, which requires both parties to respond. Not really into being available for a call on yet ANOTHER social platform? No problem, blocking or muting someone will also disable that person’s ability to video chat with you (that’s good news for influencers with millions of fans desperately trying to make contact). While this may not be the most necessary feature for anyone wanting to video call their bessie mate, it will prove useful for anyone wishing to connect with people who haven’t yet shared phone numbers.

One cool feature of Instagram video calling is that while chatting away you can minimise the window and still be able to scroll, send pictures and direct messages without ending the call. That opens new opportunities for co-browsing with friends as if you were hanging out together. What a time to be alive!

Instagram is also rolling out two more features that were announced at Facebook’s F8 conference in May. The Explore page will now have a new layout showing you a row of channels atop Explore, including an algorithmically personalised For You collection, plus ones like Art, Beauty, Sports and Fashion, depending on what content you regularly interact with. This should bring Explore’s 200 million daily users much more meaningful content as opposed to the previous feed that just saw a random mix of popular content related to their interests, with just a single “Videos You Might Like” section separated.

Finally, Instagram is rolling out custom AR filters for Stories. This is the first time third parties will be able to create these filters, and the first partners to launch them are Ariana Grande, BuzzFeed, and the NBA to name a few. And if you spot an AR filter in someone else’s Story, Instagram is adding an option to add it to your own personal effects toolkit so you can try it out yourself.

With all these updates rolling out at such a fast pace, Instagram is hoping to become a one-stop-shop for its 1 billion users’ social needs. And so far, the expansion in functionality over the past years seems to be paying off. The average U.S. user spent 29 minutes a day on the app in September 2017 and today that time is estimated to be 55 minutes. More time spent on the platform means more potential ad views and revenue for Instagram. And more ad clicks can mean more revenue for you!

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