Facebook Stories, the platform's ephemeral video and image-sharing service, has enabled public sharing in a move that could present a further challenge to Snapchat.
The social network has confirmed to TechCrunch that Stories settings have been tweaked to allow users to share updates with a public following, rather than just their friends. The ability to do so could allow social media influencers and public figures to share updates with fans.
Facebook launched Stories in March, affording users the chance to stitch a chronological slideshow of videos and pictures to share with friends. The opening up of the service - which effectively nabbed Snapchat's USP – has the potential to let celebrities give fans a peek behind-the-scenes of their day, or for influencers with Facebook followers to share content – giving users a reason to stay tuned to Facebook.
While Snapchat has previously been reported to have less cosy relationships with creators and celebrities than other social networks, the upstart has tried to make itself more open in recent months. It recently made it easier for users to share public Snaps and has built out its search capabilities with Snap Maps so they can explore newsworthy and publicly shared content. It's even launched a feature within Snapchat Stories that opens the service up to third-party links, something Facebook has yet to explore.
Facebook has 1.3 billion daily active users against Snap's 166 million, meaning there's plenty of room to scale public Stories and encourage users to migrate from Snapchat in the process.
Facebook's sister platform Instagram, meanwhile, has opened up its own Stories format to brands and pages – it's used natively by media outlets like BuzzFeed as well as brands like Nike and Coast. As with Snapchat, ads are served between Stories within Instagram's walls to the service's 250 million daily active users.
Some believe that Facebook is heading towards the same path and that the latest update will give the world's biggest social network greater leverage to monetise the service.
For now though, business pages are unable to use Facebook Stories, with a Facebook spokesperson telling TechCrunch there is "no specific timing to share there quite yet," on when this will change. Given Instagram's success in the arena it's likely to be something Facebook is keen to explore the future, though.
“It’s safe to assume that this move to drive usage of Stories is a route to eventually drive ad revenue from the format," said Matt Linstead, content manager at digital agency 360i Europe.
“Facebook will have the most success if it can get celebrities and media outlets to jump on this as a new way to share with audiences, in the same way they have with live video on the platform.
“If Facebook can drive the kind of numbers it is seeing with Instagram Stories, the format will become an attractive opportunity for advertisers. But for now, it has a long way to go.”