The Snapchatification of Facebook

The snapchatification of every piece of Facebook's digital real estate has resulted in backlash for WhatsApp. In mid-February, the popular messaging service rolled out a new feature that replaced its text-based Status option with a Snapchat Story-like equivalent that allowed users to share disappearing photos with their family and friends. But a wave of negative feedback has forced it to revive the text Status.

"We heard from our users that people missed the ability to set a persistent text-only update in their profile, so we've integrated this feature into the 'About' section in profile settings. Now, the update will appear next to profile names anytime you view contacts, such as when creating a new chat or looking at Group info. At the same time, we're continuing to build on the new Status feature that gives people fun and engaging ways to share photos, videos and GIFs with their friends and family throughout their day," said WhatsApp in a statement.

It's no secret that Facebook tried to unsuccessfully acquire Snapchat, but has it gone a little too far by incorporating it in four different ways across Instagram (called Stories), WhatsApp (Status), Messenger (Messenger Day) and Facebook (Stories again, and currently being tested)? The social network, for its part, hasn't directly addressed the copying claims. When Messenger Day launched, VP of messaging David Marcus said, "I think the Stories format is definitely a format, the same way the feed is a format. In different contexts as a format, it just makes sense. In my book, it’s totally cool to look at what’s working out there and try to adapt it to the platform you have."

But let's face it, the new Messenger home screen is a mess. The visual communication features don't seem to aesthetically jell in with the overall app, and it appears slapdash and lazily thought out. On Instagram, however, it works quite well and doesn't detract the user from the overall experience, given how the focus is on photo-sharing. Which perhaps explains why Facebook wisely rolled out the feature first on Instagram before anywhere else, and the reason for its enthusiastic adoption among users. (Last heard, Instagram Stories has reached 150 million daily users, roughly the same same number as Snapchat's entire user base.)

While ephemeral messaging is good from a privacy point of view, it provides Facebook with an obvious business opportunity to insert ads between Stories as they are being watched. Furthermore, Snapchat's limited focus on bandwidth-hungry, developing markets like India, where Facebook properties have a humongous presence, gives the latter a competitive edge, in addition to potentially curtailing its future growth prospects.

Desperation or not, it's by now abundantly clear that Facebook is gunning for Snapchat, even if it won't say it bluntly. After all what other option does it have? Release a standalone Stories app? It has done that twice already to no avail. Remember the doomed Slingshot app? Remember Flash which it released for Android last year specifically targeting Brazilian users? With this strategy not working to its advantage, it's thus not surprising to see Facebook pulling out all stops to snapchatify its services, even if that meant doing it four times over.

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