Viewing Instagram Stories on the web may be good news to some users, but it may also be alarming to others: the "ephemeral" stories you share can be easily downloaded.
Instagram Stories rolled out early this month as the company's answer to Snapchat Stories, employing an uncannily similar mechanism and functionality overall.
A Snapchat Stories vs. Instagram Stories comparison revealed some slight differences, but the two share the same take on ephemeral moments. Well, sort of. Some differences can make a hefty change.
While both Instagram and Snapchat allow users to share photos and videos that will disappear after 24 hours, they still allow viewers to take screenshots of those "ephemeral" moments. Snapchat notifies people when someone takes a screenshot of their story. Instagram doesn't. But that's not that big of a problem.
A more serious issue, however, may arise with Instagram Stories on the web. While Instagram itself has not made this option available, Android software engineer Alec Garcia released a Chrome extension that lets users view Instagram Stories on the web.
Nothing alarming so far, until you realize that the extension easily allows you to download — not just screenshot — entire videos purportedly shared under the impression that they're "ephemeral," following the Instagram Stories modus operandi.
With the extension added to Chrome, you can see your friend's stories displayed at the top of your browser, and if the story contains a video, you can download it as easy as you'd download a cute kitty picture from the web. Needless to mention, this basically renders the whole "ephemeral" feature of Instagram Stories useless, as anyone can permanently download your "ephemeral" videos.
This, in turn, may raise some concerns regarding the security of Instagram's servers, particularly since the developer could create the extension so soon and with such ease. Moreover, the bug that this extension exploits to allow video downloads raises some questions regarding how "ephemeral" things really are, and how safe your data is in Instagram's hands.
Someone shares a photo or video under the impression that the said content will disappear within 24 hours, but if someone else can easily download it for not-so-ephemeral safekeeping, where's the ephemeral part in that?
The same could be argued for Snapchat Stories. Snapchat doesn't allow users to download ephemeral videos, but other third party apps do.
Bottom line here, if you're going to use an ephemeral tool such as Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories, at least do it fully aware of the possibility that nothing really goes away on the internet.