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Facebook And Snapchat: It’s Complicated

Facebook’s attempt at rivalling Snapchat is underpinned by some worrying figures

9May

In early May, Facebook made a statement in its purchase of face-swapping-turned-filter app MSQRD (of Masquerade Technologies). The social media giant has long coveted Snapchat’s growing user base, and will hope that MSQRD can, finally, provide them with a genuine answer to it. One of the most popular apps in the App Store, MSQRD is essentially a more feature heavy version of Snapchat’s filter capability, allowing users to overlay animated filters that can then be shared on social media or saved to their device.

Facebook plans to keep MSQRD running as a standalone app, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, but don’t be surprised when its filters show up in the Facebook app or in a Facebook-owned standalone. Facebook has a long history of mimicking their most popular social media competition, integrating the popular and defining elements to enhance existing Facebook services - from adding filter options to their photo posting to adding finger doodles and stickers. And, with Snapchat ever-growing in popularity, Facebook have positioned themselves to exploit this social media trend.

Facebook may be working on a Snapchat-like app of their own, too. According to the WSJ, it is attempting to muscle in on the picture-/video-first trajectory of popular social media among teens. Facebook’s attempt will integrate with the likes of Instagram and other Facebook-owned apps, whilst also allowing its users to share live streamed video to Facebook, a capability that it will hope can set it ahead of its already established competitor to some users. The company is also rumored to be working on an app capable of creating and sharing 360-degree videos, according to Mashable, though a representative from Facebook apparently declined to comment on the report. It’s undisclosed how much Facebook paid for Masquerade, but it will be hoping the somewhat established app can be more successful than its previous attempts at mimicking Snapchat.

When Facebook attempted to buy the fleeting-picture sharing app for a huge $3 billion in 2013 - the ‘unicorn’ is now valued at $16 billion, incidentally - they were turned away by CEO Evan Spiegel on the basis that ’short-term gain isn’t very interesting.’ According to Forbes, that gain would’ve been considerable - around $750 million each for Spiegel and his co-founder, Bobby Murphy - but the young entrepreneurs held firm. In an extended interview with Forbes, Spiegel revealed that Facebook had warned the startup that it planned to release a very similar competitor app in the days following their meeting. ‘It was basically like, ‘We’re going to crush you,’ Spiegel said. As it transpired, the competitor app, called Poke, was a flop. Facebook has a reasonably long list of failed apps, but Poke was the most high-profile given the failed acquisition of it successful counterpart.

The reason for Facebook’s interest in a Snapchat-style app? Engagement in the world’s most ubiquitous social media brand is falling, particularly among teens. According to a Piper Jaffray survey, Facebook now ranks fourth among those aged 14 to 19 when it was asked what was the ‘most important social network’ in their lives. The survey involved 6,500 US teens, and only 17% picked Facebook while 28% consider Snapchat the most important. Facebook’s Instagram was narrowly behind Snapchat, while Twitter edged Facebook with 18%. And Snapchat’s numbers are incredible - it has 100 million daily act users and around 9,000 snaps are sent per second. It is exactly those neglecting Facebook that are flocking to Snapchat, and Mark Zuckerberg and co. will be more than aware of the ominous statistics. If Facebook is to recapture the teen audience and secure its user base for the future, it will need to find a direct picture-sharing app that works, and MSQRD could just give it the tools to do so.

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