Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: Facebook has released a Snapchat clone. The new standalone app offers ephemeral picture and video messaging, as well as the all-important AR lenses – sorry, “masks” – and is particularly targeted at users in emerging markets.
This is the 13th time Facebook has tried to take on Snapchat by cloning features, releasing direct competitors, or simply attempting to buy its rival wholesale.
This time, Facebook is focusing its efforts on ensuring that the app, called Flash, is as lightweight as possible. It takes up less than 25MB of space on an Android phone, according to Facebook, making it about one-third the size of Snapchat. And unlike most of Facebook previous attempts, Flash is Android-first, with no iOS release publicly detailed.
Flash has hit the Brazilian Play Store, where Facebook hopes that a combination strict data caps, patchy Wi-Fi access, and underpowered smartphones means its approach will give it a step up in the fight against Snapchat. If it can’t beat it in the US, Facebook will go to where Snap Inc has yet to get a foothold.
As a brief recap of the past 10 times Facebook has tried to clone Snapchat: one clone of Snapchat Stories, two attempted acquisitions, three standalone apps, two ephemeral messaging implementations, and two new cameras with AR lenses.
Missing in that list is Facebook’s 11th Snapchat clone attempt, when it started testing yet another new camera with AR lenses in Canada and Brazil at the start of the Olympics. It rejigged the main Facebook app to open directly into the camera. Like how Snapchat does.
And four days ago, Facebook tried to clone Snapchat for a 12th time. The Snapchat feature Stories, already cloned in Instagram, is now being cloned in a test for Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp. The feature, dubbed “Status” in WhatsApp’s implementation, allows users to take pictures, add stickers and drawings, and share them to all their contacts for 24 hours. Like how Snapchat does.
Thirteenth time luck? It doesn’t seem particularly likely that this will be the time Facebook finally cracks how to entice Snapchat users back to the mothership. But maybe it doesn’t have to: Instagram Stories now has 100 million users, proving that sometimes taking the best features of a competitor can work.
And finally, the photocopier derby isn’t a one-horse race. Snapchat has taken a look at Instagram Stories and seen a feature it would quite like to have on its own platform: the ability to rewind a story. Users of Snapchat stories can now tap on the left side of the screen to rewind by one snap, or swipe left to go back to the start of the story altogether.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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