Following on from its success with Instagram Stories, Facebook has now upgraded its own app to include the Stories feature. This brings it directly into competition with Snapchat, which first debuted the effects-based approach to photo and video messaging a few years ago.
So, which one is best? We take a look at how Facebook Stories shapes up.
What is Facebook Stories?
It's a new feature which lets you temporarily share images and short videos (up to 20 seconds) with either selected friends or on your general feed. There are a number of filters and animations that can turn a boring old picture into something cool and fun, and these can be applied to videos too.
The posts appear in a separate section of the Facebook feed (accessed via the circular profile pics at the top of the screen) and remain available for only 24 hours.
It’s pretty much the same as the Instagram feature that’s been around for a little while now, and both emulate the ideas originally set out by Snapchat a couple of years ago.
It seems that social media companies are betting big on the idea that more and more of the content posted on their platforms from mobile devices will revolve around images rather than text or shared links. They could well be right too.
Read next: Snapchat Spectacles review
What can you do with Snapchat and Facebook Stories?
Snapchat led the way with inventive animations that can overlay googly eyes, animal ears, and various other accoutrements on your photos and videos. At the moment the app seems particularly focussed on the animal side of things, with a number of funny ways to augment your images.
One has a collection of cats sitting in a room, all with your face, while another replaces your body with that of a dancing rabbit. Very fetching!
There are also several animations that can be used with two people, so you and your friends can both enjoy the freedom of dog ears and noses.
Perhaps the best part of Snapchat’s collection though is the various overlays that also record audio and alter your voice, making a serious discussion about international development rather more enjoyable thanks to a clown face and high pitched whining.
Strangely one of the most popular features on Snapchat - face swap - seems to be missing at the moment. This allowed you to take live recordings and pictures with a friend, where the app would swap your faces over.
This often created images that would haunt your dreams for many a night afterwards. You can still swap with faces from your photo library, but the live feature was one we couldn’t track down during our testing.
If you do come across it then you might want to take a look at our guide to using Face Swap in Snapchat, although be prepared for the horrors you'll see.
Once you’ve taken a picture or recorded a video you can then apply filters, in a traditional Instagram fashion, annotate with various colours, and even apply stickers. The filters and animations change on a regular basis, plus as you use Snapchat more you unlock ‘trophies’ which bring added features to the app.
Facebook offers a very similar experience to Snapchat, with a number of cool overlays and filters to bring your short-lived creations to life. The animations at the time of writing felt more varied that Snapchat’s.
While Snapchat included filters for multiple people at the same time, and a few out-of-body experiences, Facebook Stories keeps its focus on the weird and wacky individual.
Yes there’s a few animal related options, but you can also be attacked by an alien, take a trip to psychedelic trip-out city, or become a cat that shoots frickin’ laser beams out of its eyes.
Of course you can also add filters (most of which feel more distinct that the Snapchat options), draw all over the image, and add the occasional frame.
As with its rival there’s the option to save your images and videos to the camera roll on your phone, thus preserving them forever.
How easy are they to use?
Neither app is overly complicated. Both employ various swipes left, right, up, or down to open menus or apply effects.
We’ve already written a guide on how to use Snapchat that goes through the interface in depth, with a corresponding feature on how to use Facebook Stories, so be sure to check those out for more details.
So they both operate in a roughly similar fashion, but the Facebook offering seems a little clearer on how you move through sections. If you’re already used to Snapchat then Facebook Stories might seem awkward, as features are in different places, but coming to both of them cold we definitely felt that Facebook Stories was quicker to get to grips with.
Which one should I use?
In many ways this is a moot point, after all the two apps are free and you can have accounts on both if you wish. The bigger question is who are you going to be sharing your stories with?
If you have a lot of friends who already use Snapchat, then it makes sense to join them. It’s a good platform, has some inventive overlays, and looks set to be around for a while.
The real advantage Facebook has though is that the platform is already ubiquitous. If friends are using a social media site then the chances are it’s Facebook.
This makes it very easy to share your stories there rather than encouraging them to move to a new platform or app. In the end social media is meant to be convenient and reach all the people you want to communicate with in one go. At the moment this puts Facebook in prime position.
It might be a bit late to the party, but for us Facebook looks like the place where the stories will be told in the days ahead.