In discussing product and business strategy, Steve Jobs loved invoking the Pablo Picasso quote, "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." A generation later, the Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)-owned Instagram wholeheartedly agrees.
Earlier this week, Instagram unveiled a product update that mirrors some of the most popular elements of social media rival Snapchat. How does this move change the social media landscape today? Let's quickly review.
Instagram copies Snapchat
As has been widely documented, Facebook's Instagram subsidiary launched a new feature called "Stories," which can only be described as a carbon copy of Snapchat's popular Stories feature.
In its press release describing the new feature, Instagram describes its version as:
a new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story. . . . You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won't appear on your profile grid or feed.
Rewinding nearly three years, Snapchat introduced its own Stories product in October 2013 to much acclaim. Rather than delving into a comparative analysis (there isn't really one), the only discernible difference I can detect between the two is the means through which users access Stories on Instagram's and Snapchat's respective apps.
Kevin Systrom, Instagram's co-founder and CEO, really truly did Steve Jobs right. In terms of its effect on the wider social media world, not to mention the billions of dollars over which Instagram and Snapchat are poised to compete, this will likely prove the most pivotal test of Snapchat's staying power as a platform.
Did Instagram just kill Snapchat?
Up until this point, Snapchat's product had remained differentiated enough to more or less seamlessly co-exist with other prominent social media properties like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Instagram's move this week completely upends this dynamic. It remains to be seen what exactly all of this means.
Snapchat's rise is the stuff of tech and media legend. Just over five years old, the company has become a force in new media. The company already enjoys 150 million daily active users (DAUs). And thanks to a torrent of new monetization products, Snapchat plans to rake in between $500 million and $1 billion in sales next year, which could set the stage for a Snapchat IPO in 2017. However, much of Snapchat's ascent has occurred in the absence of a pure-play competitor, which it now has in Instagram.
Snapchat's users tend to be momentously engaged. Those 150 million users send 10 billion views each day as of April, a number that likely increased in the interim. This suggests that Snapchat's users like the platform -- though, again, this all being played out in somewhat of a competitive vacuum.
Instagram has roughly twice the daily active users as Snapchat, potentially making it a more attractive platform for users and advertisers looking to maximize the size of their audience. That could prove to be an advantage as both platforms mature. Again, it's anyone's guess as to how this will play out in the months ahead, but one could conclude that the competitive balance between Instagram and Snapchat has narrowed as the two platforms look increasingly like one another.
Evan Spiegel, Snapchat's co-founder and CEO, famously spurned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's offer to buy Snapchat in 2013 for $3 billion. Given Snapchat's current $16 billion valuation, Spiegel thus far has seemed vindicated in his decision to stay independent. However, with Instagram's newfound assault on Snapchat, it will be interesting to see if this decision seems as prescient 12 months from now as it does today.