Back in 2013 Mark Zuckerberg made an offer to buy Snapchat for $3 billion, an enormous figure but it was swiftly rejected. Zuckerberg knew that acquiring the app would massively increase Facebook’s daily usage amongst their teenage demographic. Facebook has made strategic steps during the last year to try and take Snapchat’s piece of the pie and now they are releasing a new app called Flash, a standalone picture and video messaging app, complete with face-distorting masks – sounds a lot like Snapchat doesn’t it?
Flash has one key difference to Snapchat – its target audience is in developing countries who have limited access to mobile data services. The Android version of Flash has already been released in Brazil and we should expect an imminent release in India to attract the country’s growing mobile population. As you can see from the graph below, the number of current Snapchat installations in India is really low, accounting for only 3.5% of all installs in 2016. In contrast, Brazil holds 19.5% of all Snapchat installs. Flash’s development started after Facebook’s failed attempt at acquiring Snow, dubbed as “Asia’s Snapchat,” developed by South Korean firm Navver.
In the past, Facebook made two attempts at creating a ‘Snapchat killer’ app, named Poke and Slingshot respectively however, they were unsuccessful. Poke launched in December 2012 and instantly was criticised by the media as being a copycat of Snapchat, combined with a shortage of marketing from Facebook this shifted users’ perceptions. The app was eventually pulled as it lacked popularity.
Slingshot was part of Facebook’s Creative Labs, a division that encouraged experimentation among the social network’s employees through hackathon-type sessions. The division pushed the boundaries of Facebook, with three apps under its belt including Rooms, Riff and Slingshot. Creative Labs was eventually discontinued in December 2015: "Since their launches, we've incorporated elements of Slingshot, Riff and Rooms into the Facebook for iOS and Android apps," a Facebook spokeswoman told The Verge. “We haven't updated these apps in some time and we've decided to officially end support by removing them from the App Store and Google Play."
However Facebook is not only taking a stab at Snapchat’s target market, they seem to be copying ideas from the app itself. In August 2016, Facebook’s Instagram launched a feature called ‘Stories’, which literally copied the name and function of Snapchat stories. Since its launch Instagram stories have 100 million daily viewers while Snapchat’s entire app has 150 million daily users. Watch Casey Neistat, Entrepreneur/YouTuber explain in this video how Instagram blatantly copied Snapchat stories:
However, it’s not all one way traffic. With the competition heating up Snapchat threw a punch back by seemingly copying Instagram’s extremely useful feature of having the ability to rewind stories. There is fierce competition in the social media market where staying ahead of the game is paramount. Facebook wants to be the monopoly for social media, despite the fact that users are not going to stop using beloved apps like Snapchat anytime soon. Will Facebook manage to eliminate the competition in the future? Only time will tell.