For Facebook, Snapchat Is No Threat

Snapchat is simply just a feature for Facebook to absorb.

If you’ve been watching closely, you’ll see that Snap Inc. is being taunted relentlessly by the world’s largest social network. Facebook is lifting Snap’s core functionalities, and dumping it into a variety of products it doesn’t really belong or make sense in.

Without speculating too much about what Facebook’s really trying to do—the company usually promotes its features with little ads about letting you “share all the moments of your day“—but the ripoffs are most certainly less about providing a helpful or new service to users, and much more about killing Snapchat.

Some important background:

Last year, an article in Bloomberg said Facebook was up in arms over a decline in “personal sharing” on its social network, which is used by 1.23 billion people every day. (Snapchat has 158 million daily users, its IPO revealed.) Personal sharing’s very important for the health of the networks: Your News Feed can’t be a stream of viral videos and news about Trump’s administration or whatever—you return to Facebook to see what your friends and family are doing.

When friends post personal statuses or pictures, it encourages you to do the same. Then Facebook has a nice crop of eager content-sharers to serve highly personalized ads to frequently. And then, Facebook makes billions of dollars – woo hoo!

What Snapchat has managed to capture is all about intimate moments (and body parts) shared between friends (and lovers). You can take a snap of whatever, send it to whomever, and you don’t have to worry about your parents or coworkers seeing it—as you may on Facebook. 

Facebook’s made a large array of News Feed algorithm updates to push “personal” content to the top, but it seems that wasn’t enough, because last year, it started copying Snapchat. For instance: Facebook took Snap’s “Story” concept—where users share a series of snapshots or videos that are no longer than 10 seconds, which are removed after 24 hours—and shoved it into Instagram. A move so transparent it had everyone side-eyeing.

It’s kind of bizarre that Facebook even got away with it, but as FastCompany explained at the time, there was nothing actually illegal about it.

Facebook’s “Stories” don’t make sense.

Instagram, meanwhile, has historically been about picking moments from your life, manicuring them, and showing them off to your friends and followers. Many people don’t post to Insta more than once a day, if even, because there’s only so much in your life that’s worth showing off.

Content shared on Snapchat is much less manicured. The app encourages you to share with your friends constantly by gamifying “Streaks,” which you get for having back-and-forth interactions with individuals. Stories, which are shared with more people than an individual snap would be, are perhaps a bit more selective, but maintain an of-the-moment vibe.

The introduction of “Stories” into Instagram thus takes a very specifically un-precious kind of content and shoves it into maybe the most precious social network this side of Pinterest. It’s like putting pepperoni on chocolate ice cream. It doesn’t really matter, because Facebook’s version of Stories—and with it, we should note, a very snap-like individual-to-individual sharing feature—is purely an assault on Snapchat.

As TechCrunch noted, Instagram Stories seems to have kneecapped Snapchat, slowing its growth by 82 percent at the end of last year. After all: Why download a new app if you can get its features on the one you already use?

Meanwhile, Snap’s stocks fell downward since shares opened to investors earlier this month.

But Facebook’s attack doesn’t stop there.

The company’s now rolled the Stories feature out far beyond Instagram. It’s been deployed in some form on Facebook Messenger, which has 1 billion users; on WhatsApp, which has 1.2 billion; and it is currently being tested on original beast, the Facebook app.

And that’s the message Facebook wants to send the world: Snapchat isn’t an app, it’s a feature.

Facebook doesn’t need you to use stories: It needs you to see that it’s everywhere you look, and that it can be bundled with a bunch of other apps that you use anyway. In Facebook World, there’s no need to download or open Snapchat—your friends are on Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and your News Feed anyway.

And it’s pretty awful. Why? Well, Snapchat’s vibe is a hundred times cooler than Facebook’s Stories, which are littered with unimaginative stickers and filters. Snapchat has a vibe. It’s an app, sure, but at least it’s an app with an aesthetic. And Mark Zuckerberg’s social behemoth could use some serious competition on its path towards gobbling up the world. And the bottom line: Monopolies are never good for the market.

The reality is that Facebook is winning the war for your Stories, and Snapchat needs to come up with a few new spectacles—far beyond its Spectacles camera. Otherwise, that iconic ghost icon may prove to be very prophetic.