Here are all the times Facebook copied Snapchat in 2016

Evan Spiegel and Mark Zuckerberg

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

2016 was the year that Facebook recognized the threat Snapchat poses to its core business, and started relentlessly cloning the app’s core features. It makes sense considering Facebook unsuccessfully tried to acquire Snapchat in 2013; CEO Evan Spiegel rebuffed a $3 billion offer from Mark Zuckerberg.

The result is that Instagram, Messenger, Facebook’s main app, and even WhatsApp look much more like Snapchat than they did one year ago. And Zuckerberg now believes that the future of how people communicate on Facebook will be through the camera — a concept Snapchat pioneered.

Here are all of the ways that Facebook copied Snapchat in 2016:

The first indication that Facebook was wading into Snapchat’s territory was in March when it acquired the app MSQRD, which lets you swap faces with goofy effects, similar to Snapchat’s unique filters called “lenses.”

Source: Business Insider

Then, in April, Facebook added scannable Snapchat-like QR codes for profiles in Messenger.

Source: Business Insider

Disappearing messages were added as a test to Messenger in May — a feature Facebook has yet to roll out globally.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook’s attack on Snapchat culminated with a battle cry Mark Zuckerberg gave to employees during an all-hands meeting in the summer.

Zuckerberg said “the camera is the composer” during an all-hands meeting with Facebook employees over the summer, according to someone familiar with the meeting.

The statement was an obvious nod to Snapchat, which recently rebranded itself as “Snap Inc., a camera company,” but since day one has prioritized photo and video messages in its app.

During Facebook’s quarterly earnings call in October, Zuckerberg explained that Facebook now sees the camera as the future of how people share and communicate.

“In most social apps today, a text box is still the default way we share,” he said. “Soon, we believe a camera will be the main way that we share.”

Facebook’s biggest attack on Snapchat came in August, when Instagram copied Snapchat’s iconic “story” format.

Instagram in August unveiled “Stories,” a near identical clone of Snapchat’s unique story format that lets you post photos and videos to your profile that disappear after 24 hours.

The feature was such a blatant clone of Snapchat that Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom even told TechCrunch that “they [Snapchat] deserve all the credit.”

“When you are an innovator, that’s awesome,” Systrom said. “Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. 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.”

Adopting the format worked: Instagram Stories are now viewed by more than 100 million people every day.

Instagram has continued to add new features to its Stories feature, some of which are different from Snapchat.

The Facebook-owned app added group messaging before Snapchat, for example, but has yet to debut its own version of Snapchat’s geofilters or face lenses. Instagram also lets people stream live video to their stories, which is a feature Snapchat has yet to add.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook is even incorporating Snapchat’s story format into its main app.

In October, Facebook announced a completely revamped camera interface in its main app that can send goofy selfies that disappear after 24 hours.

The test, which Facebook simply calls “the new camera,” is first being made available in Ireland before rolling out to everyone.

Like Snapchat, Facebook’s new camera includes dozens of special effects including augmented-reality selfie “masks” that seem almost identical to Snapchat’s Lenses. A camera button at the top of the News Feed will open the new interface, and swiping to the right of the News Feed will show photo and video direct messages with friends.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook also started testing Snapchat-like camera features in WhatsApp.

Facebook started quietly testing camera messaging in WhatsApp this fall, and it’s since added more tools like emoji stickers and the ability to draw on messages like Snapchat.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook is also copying Snapchat with its own geofilters and selfie masks for live video.

Facebook users in select countries can now make custom camera “frames” that others can overlay over photos and add to their profile pictures. They work almost exactly like Snapchat’s geofilters.

Facebook is also using MSQRD to power what it calls selfie “masks” for live video streams, which work like Snapchat’s goofy lenses.

Source: Business Insider (1, 2)

More recently, Facebook has introduced a Snapchat-like camera interface in Messenger.

After testing the feature in a few countries, Messenger introduced a new camera interface in December that encourages people to send photo and video messages to each other like Snapchat.

Source: Business Insider

All of Facebook’s clones don’t appear to be slowing Snapchat’s growth.

While Snapchat’s 150 million daily users are a mere drop in the bucket to Facebook’s 1.8 billion users, Snapchat has something that Facebook has reason to be afraid of: momentum.

Snapchat was Apple’s most downloaded app of 2016 in the App Store, and its parent company Snap Inc. is preparing for a $25 billion IPO early next year.

Snap has branched into selling hardware with its hyped Spectacles camera glasses launch, and it has already built multi-year partnerships with brands like Turner and Disney to create original shows for the Discover section of its app (which is another strategy Facebook is starting to adopt, too).

While Facebook has become an essential utility for connecting people, Snapchat has popularized a new way of communicating that’s highly visual, ephemeral, and fun. Snapchat represents an existential threat to Facebook because it has managed to redefine how people share through photos and videos.

And so, Facebook spent 2016 acknowledging that Snapchat’s visual way of communicating is the future of social networking. In 2017, Facebook will likely try to prove that it can beat Snapchat at its own game.


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