I remember the good old days, when each of the three or four giant social media platforms offered a somewhat unique experience. Snapchat was good for quick and erasable goofs. Instagram actually showed you cute photos of your friends, instead of just ads. Facebook carved out a niche for the being the only platform that allowed for both Minion memes and the vast extraction of private user data. Now, the differences between them seem to narrow by the day, a trend that the livestreaming platform Twitch appears to be continuing with a newly announced stories feature.
On Monday, Twitch announced the launch of “stories,” a new feature for creators to share short posts via the Twitch mobile app. It works pretty much the same as similarly named functions on platforms like Instagram. Basically, users will be able to share short posts on their channel that will expire after 48 hours. The feature is limited to partners and affiliates who have streamed once in the past 30 days, and will roll out by the “end of the week and on an ongoing basis,” Twitch said in a blog post.
For me, the stories feature is the perfect illustration of how previously unique experiences are being channeled into more or less the same batch of features. Snapchat originated the stories feature in 2013, popularizing the concept. Then, everything changed when Instagram launched a blatant copy of it in 2016. Years passed, and other companies followed suit. Facebook got its own version of stories in 2019. X, then known as Twitter, tried its hand at “Fleets” in 2020, and TikTok launched its own version of the feature to its app just last year. Now Twitch will join the (very boring) social media party.
Before I go on, I’d like to say that I think the addition makes sense. Twitch’s announcement of stories comes just before TwitchCon 2023. Now, the service’s popular creators will have a way to continue producing content and keep fans in the loop while away from their setups at home. Along these lines, I can already imagine creators using it to share a cute photo or graphic to announce a stream before they go live. Still, with this addition, Twitch follows the overall trend of homogenization of social media platforms.
For years, it’s been this weird back and forth where one platform finds one way to capture users’ attention, and then that feature gets reproduced by another platform. Twitch has run into this too: Facebook tried to make streaming games a thing, and TikTok similarly has expanded functionality for livestreaming. Meanwhile, Twitch has also found itself competing for attention and talent with the content behemoth YouTube, which first introduced livestreaming features way back in 2011.
I’ve written about the ways in which TikTok’s algorithm can prioritize the biggest trends, making the platform more boring, but these ideas hold true for how companies design the platforms themselves, too. It’s all very boring, and makes me miss a time when my digital life wasn’t consumed by a handful of companies. But hey, at least we still have Tumblr!