Back in August 2, 2016, Instagram, as they often do, decided to steal yet another feature from Snapchat. In fact, they stole the entire concept this time. And the Internet went crazy, as the Internet does.. but nothing happened. Instagram gradually started adding filters to complete cloning Snapchat. Then on Feb 20, 2016 Facebook decided to add the same feature to WhatsApp calling it WhatsApp Status.
Facebook’s attitude toward Snapchat is that “stories” are a format. Formats are universal and as such they appreciate it, but do not consider it to be Snapchat’s USP. I agree with Facebook’s view. I would even argue that if this is all Snap has to offer, they have bigger problems to worry about.
“When people first started using a hashtag outside of Twitter, it was a big deal. It’s become universal as a result. I think ‘the story’ is a fantastic format for sharing in the moment and giving people a picture of your daily life, and I think a lot of apps are going to adopt it.” – Instagram’s New product VP Kevil Weil.
Snap Inc, is due for an IPO this Wednesday March 1, 2017 with a valuation of $22b. There are many questions about the valuations and whether they are conservative or bullish. But, one thing is clear, Facebook’s inclusion of stories in WhatsApp has a curious timing to it. Now, over a billion users worldwide have access to the feature that made Snapchat what it is. In the meantime, Snapchat has been experiencing dreadfully slow growth, and they are blaming it on Android. However, the reality is that Instagram’s addition of stories as a feature has caused a dent in Snapchat’s user growth.
The long standing argument that says Snapchat would survive Instagram’s stories is because its target audience is under 25 year olds (over 60% of the user base). Also, Snapchat’s users aren’t using it as an alternative to Instagram but rather to Facebook’s Messenger. This is very important, because WhatsApp’s addition of “Status” updates is probably far more significant than Instagram’s. So now, instead of introducing it to Instagram’s 600m users, we are seeing it as in WhatsApp, which is probably the world’s most popular messaging platform.
Snapchat needs a better offering if it is to survive. Back in Sep 2016, they launched Spectacles, which is their first foray into wearables. It may be one of several avenues that could save Snap from total annihilation. But is it enough? It’s hard to tell, but the next few weeks will be all telling. One thing I feel certain about, Snapchat cannot continue as-is.