Back in 2013, when Snapchat wasn’t as popular as it is now, the company shocked the tech world by refusing a $3 billion offer from Facebook. Given Instagram’s acquisition for $1 billion, it was a pretty radical decision. Some found it a bad move, some thought it prescient. However, one thing is certain: Facebook didn’t take the rejection lightly. It has since made at least 15 attempts to beat Snapchat at its own game. Here are just six examples.
Snapchat Clone: Poke
Facebook’s first attempt came in the form of a clone app called Poke. The app allowed you to send messages that self-destruct, much as Snapchat does. But Poke didn’t see fame and success. Mostly people made fun of it. Facebook killed it in May 2014, only a year after its release. It was an app thought to be a joke even by Zuckerberg himself.
Quasi-Snapchat App: Slingshot
Slingshot was Facebook’s second try at topping Snapchat. The app allowed you to send a shot (photo) to your friends, but they couldn’t see it until they sent one back. It also allowed you to send a shot to all your friends at once. Sadly, Slingshot was killed in December 2015, a year after its launch – just like Poke.
Snapchat-Slingshot Mixture: Bolt
Bolt was an app you could install to Instagram that let you send photos and videos with annotations, and the messages would disappear after being viewed. The app was launched in only three countries, New Zealand, South Africa and Singapore. It was killed before even reaching the US market.
Instagram Stories v Snapchat Story
This is where things got interesting. Up until this point, Facebook’s efforts to top Snapchat didn’t seem to be working. Then Instagram announced Stories, that allows you to create photo and video slideshows that disappear 24 hours after publication. The stories appear at the top of your newsfeed so your audience can see it. Even Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom admits being influenced by Snapchat Story. “They deserve all the credit. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.” Instagram also added a feature called “live” so you can broadcast live, but it removes the stream as soon as it’s finished.
Unlike the other clones, this time the impact was real. According to some sources speaking to Techcrunch, Snapchat lost 20 to 30 percent in Story views between August 2016 and January 2017. Even some Snapchat stars reported significant drops in average unique views after Instagram Stories launched. Instagram Stories currently has 150 million daily users and the number is growing. However, despite taking some users from Snapchat, Instagram won’t put it out of business. Wishbone (a polling app) polled its user base, made up of young people age 12-25, to see whether they’ll go with Snapchat or Instagram. 63% of the participants said they still prefer Snapchat over Instagram, which shows that Snapchat’s core user base is still loyal to the product.
Facebook Messenger Camera
Released in December 2016, users can get all the features Snapchat Camera offers on Messenger. Although it’s directly copied from Snapchat, Facebook Messenger’s Camera offers some new features, like creating your own masks. For now, it’s too early to call it a success or failure, but it’s a move to exploit Messenger’s enormous user base.
Final Blow: WhatsApp (new) Status
As of February 20, 2017, WhatsApp users have been able to send their friends photos, videos, and GIFs adorned with text, drawings and stickers – with the promise that they’ll be removed in 24 hours. The new Status is a replacement for WhatsApp’s Status Messages (simple plain text). It’ll be encrypted as well, unlike Snapchat. Considering Instagram Stories’ success and WhatsApp’s one billion users, the messaging app’s move could be a big success.
Facebook’s last three moves show the new direction the company is taking. Realising the failure of copy-cat apps, Facebook harnessed the user base it has on Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. This new strategy proved to be successful at holding the people who might otherwise go to Snapchat. It’s still unclear whether the young audience will delete Snapchat to try Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status, but it won’t keep Facebook from trying to pilfer Snapchat’s users.
As Snap Inc’s IPO closes in, the company should do more than just wait for Facebook’s next move. The war between these two companies for the young audience is real and it might be that only the paranoid will survive.