Guess what! On February 20th WhatsApp launched a new version of its status. Users are now able to share both photos and videos in a montage format, which will automatically be deleted after 24 hours. Does that sound familiar?
This is not the first time an application owned by mothership Facebook has copied Snapchat’s innovative feature. After Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel famously turned down a 3 billion dollar offer by Facebook, the company has started a string of actions to profit from Snapchat’s original idea. While other popular apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter had been basing their products primarily on texts, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown decided to create an app that was primarily based on sharing pictures and videos without overloading our phones’ storage capacities.
Instagram successfully introduced Stories in August 2016, a feature that 100% emulates Snapchat. To be fair, there are some differences between Snapchat and WhatsApp’s Status: videos can be up to 45 seconds long and both videos and photos are only shared with users in your address book. Nevertheless, neither users nor experts are convinced that the new feature is going to do well, since the entire idea feels like a more natural fit for services where users share their content publicly. WhatsApp users all over the world have voiced concerns about WhatsApp changing from a free and always reliable app into a profit orientated business. Both Instagram and Snapchat are already making money with their features by placing ads. With WhatsApp recently appointing its first COO all signs seem to point to the company trying to figure out a way to make money with their 1.2 billion monthly users. Randall Sarafa, a product manager at WhatsApp, tried to calm people down by saying that they are „not adding ads to WhatsApp and (…) don’t have plans to do that.“
Neither Instagram nor WhatsApp executives have admitted to copying Snapchat’s ideas. It seems to be pretty unclear how coordinated Facebook’s, WhatsApp’s and Instagram’s efforts are when it comes to positioning themselves against Snapchat. While executives of all three companies obviously meet on a regular basis in order to discuss long-term product strategy, they also claim to maintain a certain level of workplace autonomy. It is a fact, however, that WhatsApp users have not reacted as enthusiastically as they have to past updates. Social Media is full of sarcastic comments by disappointed users, basically accusing Facebook of stealing Snapchat’s ideas. Snapchat has not commented on the entire issue yet but we are sure that they have their thoughts on it. But hey, isn’t imitation the highest compliment?