Snap (NYSE:SNAP) may have come up with the Stories format, where users can share pictures and videos on social media in a predetermined order with overlaid captions and filters, but Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has stolen the spotlight. The larger social networking company replicated Stories back in 2016, first on Instagram, later bringing the feature to its other services like WhatsApp (where it's called Status) and the core Facebook platform (including Messenger).

Facebook and its subsidiaries have given periodic updates over the years regarding the uptake of the Stories format, disclosing how many daily active users (DAUs) utilize the feature. Across its core platforms, Facebook now has 1.5 billion Stories DAUs.

Three smartphones displaying Instagram Stories interface

Instagram was Facebook's first platform to get Stories. Image source: Instagram.

The sincerest form of flattery

On Facebook's earnings call yesterday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "We're continuing to see fast adoption of Stories, with each of our three Stories experiences -- Facebook and Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp -- having more than half a billion daily actives."

We already knew that Instagram Stories had hit 500 million DAUs, which Zuck confirmed on the fourth-quarter earnings call in January, but now Facebook and WhatsApp have caught up in terms of Stories engagement. Given the fundamentally visual nature of Instagram, it was a no-brainer to copy Stories there first. WhatsApp users pounced on Status when it was released in 2017, with 175 million DAUs in less than three months. The primary Facebook service, on the other hand, was slow to get on the Stories bandwagon but is now fully on board.

Meanwhile, Snapchat DAUs languished for most of the past year, and registered modest sequential growth last quarter. Facebook's execution compared to Snap's is staggering.

Chart showing Stories DAUs across Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat

Data sources: Facebook and Snap. Chart by author.

Note that Snapchat's DAUs shown represent the entire platform, while Facebook's Stories/Status DAUs are just for that feature.

Shifting the business to Stories

Facebook is in the process of changing how it reports user metrics, moving toward family audience metrics that aggregate users across its "Family" of core platforms: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The company says it had 2.1 billion family DAUs and 2.7 billion family MAUs in the first quarter.

With 1.5 billion Stories DAUs, that means that over 70% of family DAUs are logging in to share Stories. It's possible that there is some overlap across the Stories DAU figure, which may not be deduplicated in the same way that family user metrics are, but it's safe to say that the format is absolutely dominating social media.

That shift has created some headwinds for Facebook, as Stories aren't monetized as well as the News Feed, but the company is quickly pivoting its monetization efforts. COO Sheryl Sandberg noted that the company now has over 3 million advertisers in Stories:

Facebook and Instagram feed ads make up the bulk of our business today. We expect that to continue, but Stories are [an] increasingly important growth opportunity. We are helping advertisers keep up with the shift in how people are sharing, just as we did with mobile. We're proud to announce that we now have 3 million advertisers using Stories ads to reach customers across Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger.

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