Google takes AMP beyond basic posts with its new story format


For the most part, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project was about what its name implies: accelerating mobile pages. Unsurprisingly, that mostly meant quickly loading and rendering existing articles on news sites, recipes and other relatively text-heavy content. With that part of AMP being quite successful (if not always beloved) now, Google is looking to take AMP beyond these basic stories. At its AMP Conf in Amsterdam, the company today announced the launch of the AMP story format.

The overall idea here isn’t all that different from the stories format you are probably already familiar with from the likes of Instagram and Snapchat. This new format allows publishers to build image-, video- and animation-heavy stories for mobile that you can easily swipe through. “It’s a mobile-focused format for creating visually rich stories,” as Google’s product manager for the AMP project Rudy Galfi called it when I talked to him last week. “It swings the doors open to create visually interesting stories.”To launch this format, Google partnered with CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post. Like all of AMP, this is an open-source project and publishers can extend it as needed.

The idea here is to start surfacing AMP stories in Google’s search results over time. For now, though, this is only a preview that is meant to give developers and publishers time to support this new format.

Indeed, the first thing publishers will likely notice, though, is that there’s no tooling yet for building AMP stories. To some degree, that was also the case when Google first showed AMP for regular posts, though developers quickly wrote plugins for all of the popular CMS systems to support it. “Publishers that have been working with AMP stories managed to build fairly easy integrations with their existing CMS systems,” Galfi told us.

Even once tooling is available, though, publishers will have to create AMP stories from scratch. They can’t just easily recycle an existing post, slap on an image and call it a day. The success of the AMP story format, then, is going to be about making the right tools available for building these stories without adding overhead of developers, who are not necessarily all going to be happy about the fact that Google is launching yet another format that it may or may not support in the future.

It’s also still unclear how Google will surface these stories in search and how publishers can ensure that they’ll be included here. Because these AMP stories live separate from regular posts, Google will likely give publishers another means of pinging it when new stories go live.

For now, if you want to try an AMP story, head here and search for one by the launch partners. You’ll find AMP stories under the new “Visual Stories from” header in the search results.

While I’m not sure if publishers will fully embrace this format, I have to admit that the existing AMP stories I looked at made for a nice diversion. The Washington Post used the format to experiment with a timeline of North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, for example. Vox, unsurprisingly, used it for explainers, among other things, and Mashable probably went further than most by using video, sound and animations across most of its stories.

Instagram is testing screenshot alerts for stories


Instagram is testing a feature that will show users when someone else takes a screenshot of their story. Users included in the test are getting a warning that the next time they take a screenshot of a friend’s story the friend will be able to see it, as shown below:

And users who are participating in the test can see who took a screenshot of their story by going to the list of story viewers and seeing a new camera shutter logo next to anyone who took a screenshot of their photo. To be clear, creators won’t get a specific notification when someone takes a screenshot of their story, it will only show up in their list of story viewers.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch Instagram acknowledged the test, saying “we are always testing ways to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you.” 

Instagram is likely using this test to see if the feature has any noticeable impact on engagement, before deciding whether or not they’ll roll it out to all users. For example, there’s a chance that some users may end up watching less stories over time if they aren’t able to take screenshots without notifying the creator.

Prior to this test the only screenshot notifications on Instagram were when someone took a screenshot of a private direct message. Anyone could take a screenshot of someone’s photo or story without notifying the creator. Notably, users can rewatch stories as many times as they want within 24 hours, with the creator unable to see exactly how many times one person watched it.

If rolled out, this feature would essentially align Instagram with Snapchat in terms of how the platform deals with screenshots. Any screenshot of a direct message triggers a notification to the sender, but a screenshot of a story will just result in a notation being placed next to the offender’s name in the viewer analytics tab.

YouTube is launching its own take Stories with a new video format called ‘Reels’

Even YouTube is adding Stories. The popular format introduced by Snapchat, then adopted by Instagram, Skype, Facebook, Messenger and even some dating apps, is now making its way to YouTube as a new feature the company is calling “Reels.” To be clear, Reels is YouTube’s spin on Stories, not an exact copy. And Reels won’t live at the top of the app, as Stories do on Instagram – instead, they’ll appear in a brand-new tab on a creator’s channel.

The launch of the Reels beta was mentioned briefly in an announcement today about the expansion of YouTube Community tab to all creators with over 10,000 subscribers.

We asked YouTube for more details on Reels, which will soon be introduced into beta for a handful of creators for feedback and further testing.

The company tells us the idea with Reels is to introduce a new video format on YouTube that lets creators express themselves and engage fans without having to post a full video.

Instead, creators make new Reels by shooting a few quick mobile videos of up to 30 seconds each, then adding filters, music, text and more, including new “YouTube-y” stickers.

And unlike Stories on other platforms, YouTube creators can make multiple Reels and they won’t expire.

Below is what Reels will look like for creators at launch, but be aware that the format could change ahead of a public release.

For video viewers, Reels may not mar the experience the way the addition of Stories did on Messenger or Facebook, where they weren’t as welcome.

Since Reels are posted to a separate tab on the creator’s channel, similar to Community itself, viewers could choose to go watch these new videos or not.

But if users engage with Reels, then YouTube will take that as a signal that you’d like to see them more often. That could trigger their appearance on the viewer’s YouTube home page as recommendations, YouTube tells us.

The arrival of Reels is one of a handful of changes for YouTube and YouTube Community, the social platform launched last fall as a new way for video creators to engage their fan base. A mini social network within YouTube’s larger social network, Community lives on a creator’s channel in its own tab, allowing them to share updates using text, photos, GIFs, polls, and more.

The audience can then thumbs up or down the content, as they do videos, and comment on the posts.

Also new to Community is a change to how posts work and are displayed to viewers. Now, a creator’s most engaged viewers will see Community posts in their Home feed on YouTube, even if they’re not subscribed to the channel.

YouTube says notifications are also now optimized so fans aren’t spammed with every new Community post.

Community was initially launched into beta with only a handful of YouTube creators, including John & Hank GreenAsapSCIENCEThe Game TheoristsKarminThe Key of AwesomeThe KloonsLilly SinghPeter HollensRosianna Halse RojasSam TsuiThreadbanger, and Vsauce3.

Today, YouTube detailed how some of its testers have been using Community so far. For example, Grav3yardgirl used Community to ask fans to pick what to unbox nextLele Pons posted GIFs that serve as a trailers for her upcoming videos; Kevin Durant shares photos on NBA gameday. And some have used it send traffic to different channels, and other purposes.

YouTube did not say when Reels will arrive in beta, how long until it’s publicly available, or which creators will receive the format first.