Narrative: Facebook Copying Snapchat
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Narrative: Facebook Copying Snapchat (Jan 24, 2017)
Updated: January 25, 2017
Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013, but Snapchat wasn’t interested. As far as we know, that was the only acquisition attempt Facebook made, but it has repeatedly tried to clone either the entire Snapchat experience or individual features both before and since. Snapchat is one of the few apps that’s successfully eaten into Facebook’s share of teenagers’ and young adults’ time, and so the latter appears very keen either to bring the property in house (as it did with Instagram) or to recreate the feature set and simply move the usage back over to Facebook.
This effort started way back in 2012, with the Poke app, which focused on ephemeral photo messaging, but it didn’t go anywhere. The next attempt was in 2014, when Facebook launched a more full featured app, Slingshot, only to kill it off after a year. A variety of other attempts at ephemeral messaging features within Messenger have come and gone (and in some cases stuck around) but without much more success than the earlier ones.
In 2016, though, Facebook has taken a new tack, focusing on Instagram as its main vehicle for competing with Snapchat and in some cases ripping off features fairly brazenly. I wrote a blog post about Instagram Stories and its blatant copying of Snapchat Stories in August last year, so I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but suffice to say that I think Instagram could be at least a little more imaginative in how it’s going about some of this cloning.
Having said that, it appears to be working – Instagram already has as many daily users of Stories as Snapchat has daily users in total (150 million), and Snapchat’s growth appears to be tapering off a little. By putting some of the most-used features of Snapchat into Instagram, Facebook is giving users fewer reasons to go to Snapchat, and more reasons to spend additional time in its own properties. Using Instagram, which has iterated very rapidly over the past year and is already popular among the same demographic as Snapchat, rather than the core Facebook product for this cloning of Snapchat features is smart.
That’s not to say that Facebook has given up on copying Snapchat features in its core product, however. Fall 2016 saw several more attempts around Facebook, with its Flash app for emerging markets, Messenger Day for ephemeral messages (tested in Poland in September), filters in the Facebook camera, lenses in Facebook Live, and more. I sometimes think the copying accusation is over-applied, but there’s plenty of material here for the broader accusation – Facebook clearly is copying many of Snapchat’s features, albeit with mixed success. The latest example is the news that the Stories feature from Instagram will be making its way into the core Facebook product too.
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.
Just a quick one here to document yet another “borrowed” feature from Snapchat in Instagram: this time, geostickers. No sponsored stickers yet, but given how hard Facebook is currently pushing to find new ways and places to serve up ads in its various properties, those can’t be far behind. The geostickers are pretty limited for now, but no doubt they’ll also spread in time. This doesn’t feel like one of the most important missing pieces in Instagram’s feature set, but no doubt it’ll help Snapchat converts feel a little more at home once it rolls out more fully.
Yet another use for Facebook’s very successful cloning of Snapchat’s Stories feature in Instagram, this time coming to WhatsApp. This is also another feature-level attempt to take share from Snapchat, which again seems to be what’s finally working for Facebook, in contrast to the whole-app approach it once favored. In this case, Facebook is ditching the Stories name and instead putting this feature in the Status slot in WhatsApp, but it looks like the format is very much the same.
This is another one of those times where it feels like the Facebook copying Snapchat narrative might have been a little over-applied. It seems as though Snap has hired and/or acquired an engineer and his firm in Switzerland, whose expertise is making it harder for outsiders to reverse engineer code. The Facebook read here implies that Facebook is actually reverse engineering the code rather than simply building equivalent features from scratch. To the extent that this is about preventing copying, it’s far likelier to be a response to smaller outfits cloning Snapchat than Facebook, which has many engineers more than capable of building these features without reverse engineering code.
Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users – TechCrunch (Jan 30, 2017)
This would be very bad news if it turns out to be true – celebrities and those who manage celebrity and other accounts on Snapchat claim they’re seeing a significant reduction in views of their Stories on Snapchat as a result of both Instagram’s launch of its own Stories feature and Snapchat’s move to kill the Auto-Advance feature for Stories in its own app. This kind of thing is always worth taking with a pinch of salt – the ranges discussed here are very broad, and some of the data might be outliers – but the trend seems to be consistently downward, and is backed up by some app download data as well. The positive spin from Snap here would be that it’s actually focusing engagement more by only showing users the Stories they actually choose to see, but I’m not sure investors will buy that. Again, any day now we should have some real data from Snap to go on to evaluate engagement and usage, but this is another specific concern they’ll need to address in the S-1 filing. In the meantime, more evidence that Facebook and Instagram’s strategy here is paying off, and that when Facebook broadly launches its own Stories feature the impact could be even more severe.
Instagram Stories seem to have worked out really well for Instagram, increasing engagement and gaining rapid adoption, while Snapchat’s growth seems to have leveled off a little lately. It now appears Facebook plans to bring stories into the core Facebook experience too, which makes lots of sense: for all Instagram’s popularity, Facebook’s user base is several times as large, and so Facebook can easily extend the feature to many more people in this way. The attraction of the Stories format (and Snapchat’s ephemeral approach in general) has always been that users didn’t have to work so hard to post the perfect picture to live forever on the site. Snapchat users gravitate towards the throwaway nature of sharing on the platform, and Instagram’s Stories feature has been a nice antidote to the false perfection that’s characterized a lot of sharing among teens in particular there. Facebook should benefit in the same way from this feature, especially since organic sharing is said to have fallen recently. Live Video was supposed to be part of the solution here, per Mark Zuckerberg, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
via Business Insider