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Not every messaging app has to be like Snapchat
Facebook’s blatant copying of Snapchat is nothing new, but with Microsoft’s Skype being the latest messaging app to mimic Snapchat, it’s time to say enough is enough.
Snapchat in pure numbers
Snapchat, as I’m sure you already know, is an ongoing sensation, especially among younger generations. What began as a start-up of three Stanford alums in 2011 quickly grew to become one of the most valuable companies in the world. It boasts 166 million daily active users who send a total average of 3 billion “snaps” each day. Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc., which recently went public, is valued at a whopping $30 billion and is expected to rake in $935.46 million from its app alone this year.
Before Snapchat, our communication was limited to texts and emoji. And when we did occasionally decide to send photos, it was counterintuitive and time-consuming.
Before Snapchat, our communication was limited to texts and emoji. And when we did occasionally decide to send photos, they had to be snapped separately and attached, which often was not worth the effort and the time. In that regard, Snapchat revolutionized how we share our lives and communicate with others: never before were we able to send five-second snapshots to friends and share important moments that disappear after a day in an effortless and fully customizable way.
That’s why Facebook wanted to buy Snapchat almost half a decade ago now for $3 billion. Of course, Snapchat knew that its value would be worth more than $3 billion. Yet, what the Snapchat team probably did not foresee was just to what extent Facebook would go in order to copy their image messaging app.
Facebook’s incessant plagiarism and why it’s frustrating
When Instagram launched Stories last August (this was way after Facebook had purchased the picture-centric social media app), it quickly became the talk of the town not because it was innovative or useful, but because it resembled Snapchat’s key feature just a little too much – even the name itself. Just like Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories allows users to post pictures or short videos, doodle on them or add stickers, and upload them, which would disappear after 24 hours.
Facebook did not stop there, unfortunately: not only did the “Stories” feature expand into all of its main apps including Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp, but most of these apps now let users send direct photos and videos to one another, which self-terminate once opened exactly like Snapchat. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, responded to criticism about Facebook’s blatant copying of Snapchat by saying, “The first chapter that made sense was to release products that people were familiar with… I feel like we do different kinds of work in different areas (compared to Snapchat).”
For a company who takes pride in practically coining the term “social media,” simply brushing off what may be a byproduct of a lack of innovation as a necessary step seems almost hypocritical.
Although Zuckerberg has reassured the public that the continued plagiarism is only a small part of the company’s bigger AR plans, it’s still incredibly frustrating for me for several reasons. First is Facebook’s attitude: for a company who takes pride in practically coining the term “social media,” simply brushing off what may be a byproduct of a lack of innovation as a necessary step seems almost hypocritical. Not only that, the stolen Snapchat features on Facebook’s apps don’t work as well as the original. For instance, I’ve noticed that on my phone, Facebook now gives you two bubbles: one for your usual chats and one for Facebook’s My Day. I haven’t figured out how to get rid of the second bubble, and whenever I open my chat bubble, I’m stuck with notifications for life stories of people that I don’t even care about.
Snapchat was always a more private place for me with significantly fewer contacts than Facebook. Facebook’s take on Snapchat Stories is intrusive, unoriginal, and frustratingly useless.
Stick to the status quo, Skype
Well, the true tragedy is that Facebook is not the only company: Tinder is reportedly looking into a Snapchat-like style UI for sharing multimedia, and Viber has already added Snapchat-like features to its app with the latest update. And now, Skype is the latest messaging app to join in on the shameless aping of Snapchat. The Microsoft-owned video-chatting app now has a tab called “Capture,” where you can take photos and short videos to send to your contacts. And yes, you guessed right – you can insert text, doodle on them, put stickers on them, and even add them to your “highlights” (aka Stories). The entire UI, just like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is eerily identical to Snapchat’s, and you have to wonder, “Where do we draw the line between providing a familiar experience for end-users and creating a desperate clone?”
Skype is for video chats; it’s not where best friends send double-chinned photos or where millennials share their music festival shenanigans. From a company’s perspective, the addition of Snapchat-like features could mean attracting more users. However, from a user’s perspective, the indistinguishable mishmash of Snapchat-wannabe apps means their original, distinctive purposes are slowly becoming lost.
The indistinguishable mishmash of Snapchat-wannabe apps means their original, distinctive purposes are slowly becoming lost.
What’s next? Is Microsoft going to introduce GroupMe Stories? Will we soon be able to send ten-second videos on Telegram? With the latest update to Skype, perhaps it’s time to say enough is enough.
Is all the senseless copying hurting Snapchat?
Probably the more interesting question here is whether these stolen Snapchat features on other apps have hurt Snapchat itself, and it looks like the answer could be yes. As I previously discussed, the number of downloads for Snapchat dropped dramatically in August 2016, right around when Instagram Stories first launched. The number stayed relatively low until the beginning of November 2016 when it introduced World Lenses.
Although Facebook’s other apps haven’t yet enjoyed the boom that Instagram has, the likelihood is that Snapchat users will continue to migrate to Instagram as those two apps probably have the largest shared audience.
What Snapchat must confront, however, is the challenge of attracting a broader audience.
That doesn’t mean we will see Snapchat’s demise any time soon. Its more intimate and private nature as well as the vast celebrity users will continue to attract more users. What Snapchat must confront, however, is the challenge of attracting a broader audience. Facebook and its apps already have an eclectic range of users, from millennials to 90-something year-olds; Snapchat, on the other hand, seems exclusively focused on a certain age group and a certain socioeconomic sector. In an age where major companies are out to bury Snapchat by baking its features right into their own messaging apps, Snapchat will certainly have a harder time surviving by merely existing.
Have you used the new Skype app? What are your thoughts on companies trying to copy Snapchat? Do you still use Snapchat? Let us know in the comments below!