Facebook launches stories feature to overtake Snapchat
Facebook is rolling out ephemeral stories and messaging in its mobile apps today, bringing the popular format for sharing photos and videos to more than 1.65 billion people a day. The move is part of an all-out effort to blunt the momentum of Snapchat, which invented the stories format in 2013, and to ensure Facebook’s continued dominance in an era where photo and video become a primary mode of communication. Its relative success or failure will go a long way in determining who owns the near future of social networking.
The update rolling out globally this morning on iOS and Android has three parts: a redesigned in-app camera, a new feed of ephemeral stories at the top of the News Feed, and a private messaging feature called Direct. Taken together, the features represent the biggest changes to Facebook’s core product in recent memory.
The company first introduced a clone of Snapchat stories in August with Instagram, reflecting the company’s belief that camera-based messaging represents the future of social interaction. Facebook Messenger was next, and testing began inside Facebook’s flagship app in January. WhatsApp rolled out a version in February.
This is the fourth time Facebook has cloned the key Snapchat feature in the past nine months; the social giant has already copied it into Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
On the surface, Facebook’s move simply looks like a unabashed defense strategy against Snapchat, the company’s most obvious threat since 2011, when Google tried to dive into social with a service that turned out to be much more like a bellyflop.
But Facebook’s willingness to prominently place the exact same feature inside all of its apps doesn’t just speak to the company’s fear of competitors — it also shows that Facebook isn’t concerned with giving each of its core services a unique identity.
And that should be concerning to you, assuming that you don’t need or want four different versions of Facebook on your phone.
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