Nimish SawantJan 26, 2017 11:21:39 IST
We have now lost the count of the number of times social media network Facebook has outright copied features from Snapchat. After Instagram Stories was launched last August, its parent Facebook too has started rolling out Facebook Stories on the Android and iOS apps in Ireland. Facebook plans to get this feature to more countries in the coming months.
As is the case with Snapchat Stories, Facebook Stories also lets you put up photos and video montages, with filters, which will disappear after 24 hours. The implementation on the front-end is quite similar to how it's seen on Instagram — a feed of circular icons showing whose Facebook Story was last updated.
While it is a clear rip-off of a Snapchat feature, a company which Facebook tried to buy years ago, unsuccessfully. Facebook gave its reasoning behind this feature to TechCrunch. "Facebook has long been the place to share with friends and family, but the way that people share is changing in significant ways. The way people share today is different to five or even two years ago — it’s much more visual, with more photos and videos than ever before. We want to make it fast and fun for people to share creative and expressive photos and videos with whoever they want, whenever they want."
This feature will currently only be present on the mobile app, and there was no mention of the desktop version of Facebook getting it. With the amount of population on Facebook, and your always expanding friends list, be prepared to be bombarded with this new feature which will live atop the NewsFeed. Instagram Stories has garnered close to 150mn users in the 5 months since its launch.
With Snapchat's parent company Snap Inc, headed for an IPO this year, Facebook and Instagram openly copying its features does not bade well for the app, which made ephemeral nature of sharing photos and videos mainstream. According to this report from The Information, Facebook has seen a decline in people sharing original content. It's no wonder then that there have been concerted efforts to ape a feature which is quite popular among a lot of users in the US. But Snapchat's 200mn users is no match for Facebook's 1.7bn users and Instagram's 500mn users, and the quick uptake of Instagram Stories should definitely be alarming news for Snapchat.
While it is great to see Facebook constantly doing things to keep itself the social media network of the masses, if one looks at 2016 and some part of 2015, all we see is Facebook trying very hard to ape Snapchat in every way possible. Clearly, it's insecure about Snapchat's rise. Earlier the copying was happening on platforms other than Facebook — Instagram, Messenger. Facebook Stories will live on the main app.
Some of Facebook's products to compete with Snapchat such as Poke, Slingshot have been laid to rest. Facebook has also went ahead and acquired animated filters company MSQRD, to compete with Snapchat's animated filters. Facebook added the Messenger Codes to Messenger, a feature similar to Snapcode which lets you add users by scanning the Snapcode. It had launched Flash, a separate app for emerging markets with animated filters as the focus area.
Long story short — Facebook has tried to ape Snapchat consistently over the last two years. And frankly, it is getting boring now.
It is almost like Facebook has nothing new up its sleeve to increase audience engagement — leaving aside Facebook Live videos, which I think is a fantastic platform. Audience engagement of Snapchat has been growing significantly. Facebook routinely aping Snapchat features is the biggest validation of that fact.
One good thing about Facebook is the sheer number of users it has. For someone using Facebook for many years, their friends circle are on Facebook, even family circles in some people's cases. Facebook can bring in an unprecedented amount of scale. Instagram for instance, made Stories more approachable for a lot of users who were foxed by Snapchat's interface. Because Facebook is a mass platform, Stories may just acquire a much higher popularity than it currently has on Snapchat. One just has to look at how Messenger has become an app with a 1bn follower count, specially when you consider that it was just a part of Facebook when it started off.
Snapchat underwent rebranding last year to become Snap Inc, It positions itself as a camera company now and even released a hardware product in the form of Spectacles. According to Fortune, Snap Inc is looking at a $4bn IPO this year. This IPO could value Snap Inc at $25bn to $30bn. A fact that must sure be hard for Facebook to swallow, considering it had made a $3bn offer to buy out Snapchat back in 2013, which Snap CEO Evan Spiegel refused. Snapchat's Discover platform has given a new twist to the way news is presented, and as compared to Facebook, it has been quite proactive in ensuring that there is no spread of fake news on Snapchat. As it approaches the IPO, Snap Inc has laid down more guidelines for Discover platform members. But at the rate at which its features are being copied by rivals, post IPO that could be a big deterrent in acquiring new users. Unless Snap Inc has a Plan B.
It does not look like Facebook or Instagram have infringed on any Snap Inc copyright and has merely ripped off existing features. So technically, Snap Inc cannot sue Facebook for it.
How this rivalry will play out in the future, only time will tell. But 2017 could easily be a make or break year for Snap Inc.
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