Narrative: Facebook Copying Snapchat
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Narrative: Facebook Copying Snapchat (Jan 24, 2017)
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Instagram Launches Selfie Filters (May 16, 2017)
It’s hard to avoid the sense that Facebook is trying to rain on Twitter’s parade here. It’s announced that Instagram now has 700 million monthly active users, up from 600 million in December, which means it’s added 100 million users in just a little over the time it took Twitter to add nine million. It previously announced that Instagram Stories has 200 million users, up from the 150 million it had shared earlier, and attributed the growth in the core Instagram user base in part to an improved signup flow. But Instagram has also benefited from strong adoption in emerging markets, including Brazil, which is its second largest market after the US, with 45 million users. That’s in marked contrast to Snapchat, which has emphasized primarily mature markets on the basis that emerging markets users have more constrained and expensive bandwidth and would be less likely to use a visually intensive app like Snapchat. And of course Facebook’s other apps continue to grow rapidly too: Messenger and WhatsApp are now both over 1.2 billion, while the core app will likely hit 2 billion in the next quarter or two.
Instagram Adds Folders for its Bookmarking Feature (Apr 17, 2017)
Instagram Stories has been a huge hit, in part because it taps into the same instincts that have driven Snapchat’s massive success: it allows people to share photos and videos in a way that’s more casual and therefore more natural. It’s therefore smart that in advertising the feature in a global campaign, that’s one of the elements the company is focusing on. But an out-of-home campaign like this also suggests Instagram wants to attract new users to the feature and to Instagram, not just ride its existing base in growing adoption of Stories. Note that this story quotes the same 150 million user number we’ve seen for Stories in the past from Facebook – when it reports financial results for Q1 in a few weeks, it’ll be worth looking for an update on that number, to see whether it’s stagnated (or whether growth has slowed).
Update: on April 13th, Facebook announced that Instagram Stories now has 200 million, so looks like growth is still going strong.
If Facebook had to choose between a huge backlash against the way a feature was rolled out and general ambivalence towards it, I’d guess it would choose the latter. That seems to be happening now with the version of the Stories feature in the core Facebook app, despite the massive popularity of the equivalent feature in Instagram, and in contrast to the negative response to the versions Facebook launched in Messenger and WhatsApp. The good news here is that Facebook rolled the feature out much more carefully and subtly, though this new wrinkle of showing faded versions of the profile pictures of friends who haven’t used the feature is a sign that Facebook may be starting to turn up the dial a little on promotion, though it’s an odd way to go about that. Hopefully Facebook will be smart enough not to force the issue by over-promoting it in obnoxious ways as it did with live video in the core Facebook app or with My Day in Messenger. Again, far better to have a feature fall a little flat than turn users off entirely.
via The Verge
We’ve known this was coming for a while, but there are a couple of extra wrinkles here. First up, let’s get the obvious out of the way – yes, this is another example of Facebook copying Snapchat, although at this point it’s also copying itself, specifically with regard to the presentation of Stories within the Facebook app, which is very similar to what it already does on Instagram. The good news is that it’s avoided the heavy-handedness that characterized its launch of the Stories equivalent My Day in Messenger and to a lesser extent the equivalent Status feature in WhatsApp – this feature is more subtle and slots in at the top of the app a la Instagram, which should lead to less of a backlash from users. One of the weirdest new features here, though, is a new direct message feature, which is an odd Google-like doubling up on messaging given the existence of the Messenger app. There are some other unique features, but several of them feel different for difference’s sake rather than being valuable or more appropriate for the Facebook setting than Instagram, and I’d expect at least some of them to make it into Instagram Stories in time. To take a step back, though, this is an entirely logical next step given the success of Instagram Stories: the latter has over 150 million users out of a monthly active user base of 600 million, while Facebook has a total user base three times that size, meaning it could bring the feature to many more people. And of course, in the process it’s likely to further dent Snapchat’s growth, which continues to be one of the biggest question marks over its long-term trajectory.
via The Verge
With all the fuss about Facebook cloning Snapchat features, it’s worth remembering that not everything Facebook adds to its products is a copy of Snapchat, and this is a good example of adding features that owe more to Facebook’s core product than anyone else’s app. Given the backlash against the My Day feature added recently, it’s somewhat brave of Facebook to add yet more features (and potentially clutter) to Messenger, but these features look like they’ll add value too. And perhaps help to distract from the negative response against My Day.
My Techpinions column today argues that Facebook has recently been trying too hard to force new features on users, and needs to tone things down. That’s mostly been the case in the Facebook-branded apps, but this WhatsApp change a while back was another example of replacing something users liked with something Facebook wanted them to use. The good news here is that the backlash wasn’t nearly as bad as with last week’s My Day launch in Messenger, and the company is already rolling back the change while preserving the new feature as well. It’s interesting, though, that both My Day and this Status change in WhatsApp were essentially clones of the Snapchat Stories feature which had previously worked so well for Facebook in Instagram. This cloning has been a story for some time, but the way Facebook is now pushing it on users is starting to backfire, which is a particular shame because the Instagram version was handled so well and has performed well too.
This feature has been in testing since September, but is now rolling out globally. As I’ve said previously, Facebook has done much better in cloning Snapchat successfully since it stopped trying to recreate the entire app and focused instead on features, with Instagram Stories being the standout example. It’s now rolling out Stories in various ways in its separate apps, with Messenger second to go global, and the core Facebook app likely coming next. And why not? Though I think it’s a little distasteful to see Facebook copying Snapchat so blatantly, it certainly appears to be working, and taking a feature used by a competitor with 160 million users and making it available to ten times that many seems entirely logical.