Narrative: Facebook Copying Snapchat

Each narrative page (like this) has a page describing and evaluating the narrative, followed by all the posts on the site tagged with that narrative. Scroll down beyond the introduction to see the posts.

Each post below is tagged with
  • Company/Division names
  • Topics
  • and
  • Narratives
  • as appropriate.
    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 marketsMessenger Day for ephemeral messages (tested in Poland in September), filters in the Facebook cameralenses 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.

    Instagram Offers Cross-Posting of Stories to Facebook (Oct 5, 2017)

    Facebook seems determined to keep trying to make the Stories format a success in its core app, even as all the evidence shows that hardly anyone is using it. The latest push is a feature which enables users of Instagram’s Stories feature to cross-post a Story created in that app over to the Facebook equivalent as well. That will certainly provide a low-friction way to get people to create content for the Facebook Stories feature, and will therefore likely lead to at least a small increase in usage. But the big difference between Instagram and Facebook is often the size and nature of the audience. Yes, some people have big followings in both places and for them cross-posting will be natural and even useful, but for many others the appeal of Instagram is the smaller, more intimate audience they publish to there in contrast to the mishmash of people known well and not so well that clutter many people’s Facebook networks. As such, the appeal and usage of the feature is likely to be somewhat limited, for all the same reasons that Facebook’s Stories feature in general hasn’t taken off.

    via TechCrunch

    Facebook Use Among US Teens Will Start to Fall, Says eMarketer (Aug 22, 2017)

    Analyst firm eMarketer has revised its usage forecasts for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for the coming year, and although there’s lots of data there, the point the media has latched onto is that it’s predicting use of the core Facebook app among US teens will fall this year. Though I have to imagine eMarketer is basing all this on some kind of survey of teens (notoriously difficult to do), there’s no mention of any such survey in the article from eMarketer, so I’m curious to know precisely what the foundation is, especially given that falling Facebook use by teens has been talked about for years but never seems to have materialized in a discernible way in Facebook’s reporting. None of this, though, is all that surprising, given that Snapchat and Instagram between them seem to have a lock on teens’ social media use, both driven by the increasingly raw and personal sharing these platforms enable in contrast to the broadcast nature of most Facebook sharing. While Facebook has steadily embraced its identity as a time sink filled with content loosely connected to people you know, these other platforms continue to major on true social interactions and therefore are more appealing to those at a stage of life where that’s the most important aspect of social media. Without Instagram, Facebook would potentially be staring a massive liability in the face at this point given that all its organic efforts to compete with Snapchat have crashed and burned, but with it, the company has managed to participate in rather than merely suffer from this trend among teens. And it’s now seeing the upside at least as much as the downside, with several times the user base of Snapchat overall and nearly equally high engagement. As such, I’m not sure any of these needs to be a worry for Facebook even if it’s true, as long as the trend doesn’t spread to older age groups and lead to broader disengagement from Facebook, and as long as Instagram is able to continue to capture its share of teen social media use.

    via eMarketer

    Facebook Kills Another of its Less Successful Snapchat Clones, Lifestage (Aug 8, 2017)

    This content requires a subscription to Tech Narratives. Subscribe now by clicking on this link, or read more about subscriptions here.

    Instagram Releases Engagement Numbers Rivaling Snapchat’s at Much Bigger Scale (Aug 2, 2017)

    A year ago today, Instagram debuted its Stories feature, which took Snapchat’s feature of the same name and adapted it slightly, something I criticized at the time in a blog post, arguing that the sheer brazenness of the copying should be beneath Instagram. Whatever the ethical shortcomings of such a move, it’s clear that it’s been very successful, with over 250 million daily users of the feature a year later, and Instagram hasn’t been shy in gloating about its milestones, especially where they make for favorable comparisons versus Snapchat. We’re getting more of that today, with Instagram offering up new data on time spent in its app among different age groups, which again compare nicely with Snapchat’s equivalent metrics. Snap Inc said on its Q1 earnings call that its users spend on average over 30 minutes per day in the app, up from a range of 25-30 minutes described in its S-1 filing a few months earlier. Instagram, meanwhile, says that under-25s now spend an average of 32 minutes in the app per day, while older users spend an average of 24 minutes per day. That’s very close to Snapchat’s numbers, but of course at rather larger scale: Snapchat’s most recent daily active user number was 166 million, whereas Instagram now has 700 million monthly active users, meaning that total time spent on Instagram is vastly higher than on Snapchat. All of this is making life tough for Snapchat, which has grown much more slowly since Instagram’s Stories launched, and which will continue to struggle to convince advertisers that it’s worth spending money on reaching its narrower audiences with inferior ad tools versus reaching Instagram’s much broader and larger audience with better targeting, tracking, and ultimately results.

    via Instagram

    Instagram is Winning Over Some Big Publishers from Snapchat (Jul 14, 2017)

    This content requires a subscription to Tech Narratives. Subscribe now by clicking on this link, or read more about subscriptions here.

    Instagram Beefs Up Direct Messaging Feature with Photo and Video Replies (Jul 6, 2017)

    This content requires a subscription to Tech Narratives. Subscribe now by clicking on this link, or read more about subscriptions here.

    Instagram Stories User Numbers Once Again Compared Disingenuously with Snapchat (Jun 20, 2017)

    Today’s Instagram announcement is ostensibly about the launch of live video replays, a new feature that allows users to save their live videos for 24 hours as an Instagram Story. However, the part most outlets I’ve seen have focused on is the announcement of 250 million daily active users for Instagram Stories as a whole, which is naturally being compared once again with Snapchat’s overall user numbers. That’s always a bit disingenuous because comparing a single feature in an app with 700 monthly active users with daily active user numbers for a standalone app isn’t a like for like comparison – some large number of people who regularly use Instagram as an app might occasionally dip into Stories without ever posting one, while the average Snapchat daily active user spend sover 30 minutes in the app every day, suggesting a very different level of engagement. But this is the inevitable comparison, not just because the Stories feature was copied from Snapchat but also because its launch seems to have come at just the time Snapchat user growth slowed. The reality is that Facebook’s reach is now such across its many apps that it can easily launch new features and services and have them reach this kind of scale, and in the process eat into the time spent in other apps, but I don’t think anyone at Facebook would suggest that Instagram Stories by themselves generate nearly the engagement of Snapchat as an app, and even Instagram as an app likely only generates the same engagement and time spent as Snapchat among a minority of users. But that doesn’t mean Instagram Stories isn’t a huge hit for Instagram and a great way to neutralize the ongoing threat presented by Snapchat as a competitor, especially among the demographics where it hasn’t yet gained wide adoption.

    via TechCrunch

    Snapchat is Struggling to Grow Partly Because Evan Spiegel Trusts Gut Over Data (May 24, 2017)

    This content requires a subscription to Tech Narratives. Subscribe now by clicking on this link, or read more about subscriptions here.

    Instagram Adds Crowdsourced Geographic and Topic-Based Stories (May 23, 2017)

    This content requires a subscription to Tech Narratives. Subscribe now by clicking on this link, or read more about subscriptions here.