(Credit: Instagram)

Instagram announced today that it's adding question and answer stickers to your Stories to its mobile app, for both live Q&A with your followers, and for regular Stories. Stories are themed collections of photos and clips, created by Instagram's users to share with their IG friends, and they disappear after 24 hours. Fierce competitor Snap released Snapchat Stories in 2013, making Instagram's new stickers the latest salvo in their war for your ephemeral attention.

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Enabling the new stickers for your next Story or Q&A is easy. After you've taken a photo or created a video clip in Instagram, just select the question sticker from your tray, choose the color theme, place the sticker, and then share your Story. People who see your Story can then tap on the sticker to add an answer or a question of their own, and it gets added to the sticker. At that point, you can answer with a separate sticker of your own.

You can also view a list of responses to your Q&A sticker, and you can tap on each one to create a new Story where the question is answered with more stickers. However, for privacy, only the Story creator can see this list, and your follower's identity is not shown when you answer.

With some other apps generating an unsettling amount of personal user data for all the world to see, it's nice to see Instagram taking steps to preserve a little anonymity. Only yesterday, its owner, Facebook was hit with a $664,000 fine for the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, so this problem is definitely on Instagram's radar.

When and how will Snap respond?

There's a lot going on in the background that's influencing how social networking apps develop new features to increase engagement. In May of this year, when Snap reported that it had 191 million daily active users (DAUs) for Q1, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp had a whopping 450 million DAUs just for its Status feature, and Instagram reported 300M DAUs just for its Stories. Facebook launched its own Stories section in March of 2017.

One other persistent undercurrent: Facebook made Snap an all-cash $3 billion buyout offer in 2013, which it declined. In the years since, Instagram has been quick to emulate Snap's new features as they come out, allowing it to gain a steady lead. And Snap has stalwartly bucked the trend of tech startups getting swallowed by Google or Facebook before they become a real threa

The takeaways

  1. Like Twitter, Instagram has long embraced the presence of celebrities and influencers, who frequently interact directly with non-celebrity users. So the new question sticker should be a helpful engagement tool for it to increase its fanbase, and it's a sensible addition to its publicity toolkit.
  2. In the case of the new Instagram questions sticker, IG is actually getting ahead of Snap's curve, which, itself comes in the wake of Instagram's new IGTV, a video recording feature that supports clips up to 60 minutes long. If this momentum continues to shift in Instagram's favor, Snap may have to start responding with some bold new app features to stem the tide.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.