It's official. Facebook just became Snapchat.

You've all seen these types of headlines: Facebook adds Snapchat-like blah blah blah; Facebook continues assault on Snapchat; Facebook is turning into a Snapchat clone; and so on. Those stories aren't lying. Facebook, which once tried to buy Snapchat, has been heavily copying the app in order to appease a younger, more mobile audience. And the most recent update to the Facebook app is yet another example.

Facebook has launched Facebook Stories. It's an update to the iOS and Android app that adds three new features: an effects-filled camera that sits a swipe over from the news feed; a spot for disappearing stories; and a way to share media straight from your camera. So, yes, once and for all... Facebook just became Snapchat. If you want to know more about how Facebook Stories works, here's what you need to know.

The Facebook app has updated with a new feature, called Facebook Stories, which lets you "share multiple photos and videos as part of a visual collection atop news feed". When you add a photo or video to your story, it appears in the new Stories section at the top of news feed. Your profile picture will also appear in this row at the top of your friends' news feeds, and they can tap it to see your story for 24 hours.

Facebook also updated its camera just for Facebook Stories. Tap on the camera icon on the top left corner (or swipe right from news feed) to try it out. It offers masks, frames, and interactive filters that can be applied to photos and videos. There's even "reactive effects" that let you interact with dynamic objects (like falling snow) and style effects so you can apply a Picasso-style filter to your video in real time.

If you want to share photos and videos with specific friends rather than via a story, Facebook offers a "Direct" option that’s designed for sharing "individual photos and videos with specific friends for a limited time". When you use Direct, your friends will be able to view your photo or video once and replay it or write a reply. Once the conversation on the photo or video ends, it is no longer visible in Direct.

To post to Facebook Stories, follow these steps:

  • Tap on the “Your Story” icon in the Stories bar at the top of news feed.
  • Alternatively, you can tap the camera icon in the top left of your screen or swipe right from news feed.
  • Tap the record button to take a photo or tap and hold it to record a video. You can also upload from your camera roll.
  • If you want to save a photo or video, tap the download icon.
  • Tap Your Story to add to your story, and then tap the send button.
facebookwhat is facebook stories and how does it work  image 4

If you want to add effects to your photos or videos before posting to Facebook Stories, follow these steps:

  • Tap on the “Your Story” icon in the Stories bar at the top of news feed.
  • Tap the record button to take a photo, or tap and hold it to record a video. You can also upload from your camera roll.
  • Swipe up or tap the effects icon to add frames, masks, or camera effects.
  • You can also tap the Aa icon to add a caption or tap the doodle icon to doodle.
  • Tap Your Story to add to your story and then tap the send button.
facebookwhat is facebook stories and how does it work  image 3

To view someone's story, follow these steps:

  • Tap a friend's profile picture in the Stories section at the top of your news feed. They will be able to see you have viewed their story.
  • While viewing a story, you can tap on the left of the screen to move backwards or tap on the right of the screen to move forwards. You can also tap and hold to pause a story.

If you want to reply to someone's story, follow these steps:

  • While you're viewing a story, tap "Write a direct reply to [their name]". Direct replies can be found in the Direct section of the Facebook app and can only be seen by you and the recipient.
facebookwhat is facebook stories and how does it work  image 2

When a friend sends you a direct photo or video, or replies to your story on Facebook, you can view and reply in the Direct section of the Facebook app. To use Direct, follow these steps:

  • To open Direct, tap the Direct button in the Facebook Stories row.
  • To view the photo or video, tap the blurred preview image.
  • To reply with a message, tap "Reply to [Friend's Name]"
  • To exit the photo or video, tap the X in the corner.

Facebook Stores is now rolling out globally to the main Facebook app for Android and iOS.

Check out Facebook's blog post and Camera help hub for more details.