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Snapchat needs to start stealing from Instagram

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Written by Mia Miller

Why Snapchat needs to start stealing from Instagram? What’s the biggest threat of Snapchat?

With the introduction of Instagram stories this week, the internet had a collective conniption fit over the cloning of one of Snapchat’s most popular features. Now, in addition to posting a pristine filtered photo to your Instagram timeline, you also can snap a rough selfie, doodle over it, and watch it disappear after 24 hours. Instagram didn’t even bother to alter the name, and its CEO doesn’t seem embarrassed about it. “You’re going to see stories pop up in other networks over time, because it’s one of the best ways to show visual information in chronological order,” Kevin Systrom explained to The Verge.

In Systrom’s eyes, just as Facebook popularized the idea of the feed, Snapchat created a novel way of helping people communicate using slideshows. So copying the feature is just part of staying competitive. Of course, Facebook has copied Snapchat many times before, with apps like Slingshot, Poke, and Riff, all of which were shuttered after failing to catch on. Yet never before has the company so brazenly copied a core Snapchat feature and implemented it into one of its most popular products.

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SNAPCHAT CREATED A NOVEL WAY OF HELPING PEOPLE COMMUNICATE USING SLIDESHOWS

This time around, Facebook’s efforts may pay off. Compared with Snapchat, Instagram is more intuitive for first-time users, and so is its stories feature. Granted, a superior visual aesthetic and more user-friendly navigation doesn’t automatically translate to more sharing. Snapchat has proven that you can hand a teen a gnarled mess of features and they’ll figure out how to master them, so long as their friends are on the network. But if Snapchat wants to keep growing, it faces a new obstacle: a bigger competitor, with a more inviting interface, has cloned its chief innovation. And that gives people around the world, particularly in foreign markets where Instagram is better established, one less reason to ever try Snapchat.

According to TheVerge, by now it’s a cliché that Snapchat is hard to learn, particularly for anyone old enough to have graduated college. That has been easy to ignore as the company added users at a rapid clip, drawn by its novel feed of ephemeral broadcasts. If parents can’t figure it out — well, so much the better for their children, who have an enjoyed having a social network mostly to themselves. But increasingly Snapchat’s insular view of design looks like a risk to its future growth.

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Snapchat needs to start stealing from Instagram1

Snapchat eschews widely used social network conventions, making it an entire language unto itself. The app does not have a follow or subscribe system, or a like or favorite button. So there’s no way to judge at a glance how popular any one user is compared with another, or whether any one post in particular has taken off unless you’re the one who posted it. There also isn’t a system for figuring out whether a snap was sent just to you or to a group of people. There’s no traditional feed of posts, or a series of home row tabs to help you navigate from one section of the app to another and back again. When you craft a snap, there’s no guide or suggestion helping you decide whether to put a 10-second timer on it and send it out or place it in your story. (Or save it to the Memories tab, a new feature designed to let Snapchat replace your phone’s photo album.)

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SNAPCHAT PIONEERED THE DEFAULT SELFIE CAMERA

 Snapchat pioneered making the selfie camera as the default app screen, which has created a culture of frequent sharing. The idea is to capture the moment first, and figure out how to share it second. This intense focus on what you’re creating makes Snapchat extraordinarily versatile; it can be used however you choose. That has turned out to be a winning formula for a generation of kids who’ve been told the internet is forever, and that anything posted to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can come back to haunt them. Earlier social apps have pressured users to craft a perfect versions of themselves online, quantifying their success with likes, favorites, and retweets.

About the author

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Mia Miller

Digital Media Specialist

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