Just in case you needed another excuse to spend more time in Instagram, you can now add the photo-sharing service to the list of apps that support group video calls.
Instagram is rolling out its group video chat features starting today, along with a redesigned Explore tab and new augmented reality features for Stories.
First teased last month during Facebook’s F8 conference, video chat is part of Instagram Direct. You can launch video calls of up to four people from chats in your inbox. One of the nice features is that the app allows you to multitask while on a call, so you can keep browsing your feed, or post to your Story, while chatting.
Like so many other recent Instagram features, group video calling is something many of its competitors did first. Snapchat introduced the feature in April and Facebook Messenger has had the feature since 2016. There are also standalone apps, like Houseparty, which are entirely dedicated to group video. But, even though they’re late to the game, none of Instagram’s non-Facebook owned competitors come even close to its size (Instagram just passed 1 billion users).
Additionally, Instagram’s much-needed Explore update is also launching today. Now, the tab will sort videos into “topic channels,” so you can browse similar videos based on your interests. Instagram already does a version of this, but the channels were scattered throughout the Explore page.
Now, though, the channels will all appear at the top of the page and will include lists of hashtags in addition to general topics like “art” and “travel,” which Instagram says will make it easier to navigate.
Finally, the app is rolling out its new “camera effects” for Stories, which lets third-parties create branded augmented reality features, similar to Snapchat’s lenses. The features will show up in the in-app camera if you follow an account that’s signed on to the feature (early adopters include the NBA, Buzzfeed, and Ariana Grande).
What all of these features have in common, though, is that they will likely result in users spending even more time in Instagram’s app. Group video chat could help the app compete with apps like Houseparty (whose users send a shocking amount of time in-app, by the way), while a revamped Explore page will help prod users to discover fresh content.
All this, of course, also comes right after the app’s IGTV launch, which encourages users to make longer-form vertical video to hook viewers into YouTube-like channels.
But, you know, the company is still totally committed to a feature that’s meant to curb your Insta addiction. There’s still no word on when that feature is going to roll out, by the way, but hopefully it’s sooner than later — we have a feeling we’re going to need it.