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You know when you’re wrestling someone significantly bigger and you realize they can simply sit on you? It doesn’t matter what Snap is scheming, Facebook this week showed that it has figured out how to throw its weight around.
Instagram announced yesterday that Stories is now used by 200 million people daily. The latest figure we have for Snapchat is 161 million daily active users, meaning Instagram Stories has effectively overtaken the copied app.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that all of Snapchat’s users are suddenly no longer using the app — Snapchat is just no longer the most popular option in the ephemeral category it pioneered.
Here’s the timeline:
- August 2016: Instagram clones Snapchat’s Stories feature
- October 2016: Instagram Stories passes 100 million daily active users
- December 2016: Snapchat passes 161 million daily active users
- January 2017: Instagram Stories passes 150 million daily active users
- April 2017: Instagram Stories passes 200 million daily active users
For reference, Instagram has 600 million monthly active users. In other words, more than a third of the service’s users are using a feature that directly clones Snapchat.
The above timeline is not exactly fair: Facebook spent years trying to figure out how to steal Snapchat’s secret sauce. It launched copycat apps (Poke and Slingshot) and ephemeral features (Stories is just the biggest) in an attempt to learn what sticks.
The social giant has finally reached the tipping point. Whether Instagram Stories or any of the other knockoff succeeds in the long run doesn’t matter; even if Snap somehow manages to create something Facebook cannot replicate, the game is over.
Hundreds of millions of users are playing with Snapchat features across Facebook apps. These people can be broken into two groups: those who never tried Snapchat and yet are using its “unique” functionality without ever having to learn its incredibly annoying user interface, and those who are learning that Snapchat is not irreplaceable.
Facebook can pull all this off because of its size. I don’t mean just in terms of engineers and resources, but also strictly in users: The main Facebook app, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram are all used by multiples of more people than Snapchat.
The very nature of Stories and ephemeral features is that you cannot easily create content first and then share it across Snapchat and Facebook’s various apps. Thus, every time someone uses a Snapchat-copied Facebook feature, they are choosing not to use Snapchat.
Facebook is stunting Snap’s growth by sitting on it.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.
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