Facebook is building a better Snapchat than Snapchat, and that's very disturbing

Facebook doesn't shy away from copying its competitors when it runs out of ideas. In fact, this might very well be the secret to Facebook’s continuing success.

Facebook is big. With almost 2 billion users, it’s the largest social media platform in the world. Each of its social media properties are also massive in their own right. Instagram boasts of 600 million active users, Messenger just crossed the 1.2 billion mark and WhatsApp has more than 1 billion users.

By any measure, Facebook is the largest, most successful social media company on the planet. That still doesn’t stop Facebook from copying its competitors when it runs out of ideas, however. In fact, this might very well be the secret to Facebook’s continuing success.

Take Snapchat for instance; an app for sharing ephemeral images and photos caught the attention of the younger audience that Facebook wanted but couldn’t net. Facebook’s solution to the problem? Outright plagiarism. The social media giant has been copying Snapchat’s features with utter disregard for any sense of propriety, and it’s been doing this very successfully for years.

 Facebook is building a better Snapchat than Snapchat, and thats very disturbing

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Snapchat Stories is a feature that allowed users to share chains of content that can be viewed in a 24-hour period. This was introduced in 2014 and proved to be the most popular feature on Snapchat, some might even call it a defining feature today.

Facebook blatantly copied Stories and implemented it across almost all its properties, including Messenger and Instagram. Better yet, we’ve now learnt that Instagram Stories on Instagram is actually more popular than Snapchat Stories on Snapchat. With 200 million daily active users on Instagram Stories, Snapchat in comparison manages about 160 million daily active users.

Taking things a step further, Facebook has introduced a number of tools to improve Stories. This includes selfie stickers, pinned stickers, video Stories, more geo-stickers, etc.

This is all well and good, and I’m not debating the morality or business ethics of the issue, but I do wonder if Facebook has a real plan. It’s easy to copy something that’s already proven to be successful, especially if you have the means to improve upon it; the iPhone and its innumerable Chinese clones is testament to that.

Getty Images

Getty Images

However, while Facebook not only copied the feature, it also tried to implement it everywhere without regard for the audience the feature is targeting. What’s the point of having Stories on Facebook, Instagram as well as Messenger? Doesn’t Facebook know where it’ll work best?

Facebook is behaving like a chef has this great new sauce that he wants everyone to try, but he doesn’t know which dish it’ll go with. Rather than making the effort to figure it out, he adds the sauce in everything and hopes to sort it out later based on feedback.

That’s not an indication of a chef who knows his trade, is it? Taking this analogy a step further: If the best restaurant in the world thrives on stolen recipes, what happens when there are no more recipes to steal?

One does have to feel sorry for Snapchat. While Snapchat is busy innovating, Zuckerberg is busy peddling his manifesto on building global communities and working on newer advertising techniques. And when Facebook just casually steals all of Snapchat’s hard work, what can Snapchat do but grit its teeth and move on?

More importantly, once Snapchat dies, who will Facebook rip-off next?

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