Embrace the niche.
Why one day Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter will be the same.
Before I start, I’m not badmouthing one network over the other; All three have copied ideas from one another in the past and if things maintain their course this trend will continue. I’m just making an observation and prediction, so here’s my take.
Today Instagram released a controversial update, which many say blatantly rips off Snapchat’s stories. Their blog states:
The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.
Before you upload the photo or video you have the option of adding text and drawings. So we all know these are all features popularized by Snapchat, but that’s not my problem. My problem is the reasoning behind them ripping off Snapchat. A while back Twitter introduced video in the form of Vine, then Instagram implemented the same feature in their platform — except they capped it at fifteen seconds. Snapchat in one of it’s recent updates allowed users to posts photos from their camera role directly to their story. The examples don’t stop here, but its obvious that these three networks who were once individuals with their own identities are starting to look very similar.
Why are they all becoming the same?
In short, apps like Instagram add in Snapchat’s features in order to grab a hold of their audience and scale up.
You remember the good old days when these social networks had a specific role: Snapchat was used to send your friends cute yet temporary pictures; Instagram was used to edit and post high quality pictures & Twitter was to let your friends know what you were up to. Now all three have become platforms like YouTube that host content. They all have coverage of live events or news & have direct messaging built in. I don’t blame them. Here is the logic, If I take a feature from Snapchat, then I may gain 10% of their user base, or light Snapchat users will drop the app entirely and spend more time on Instagram. Startups are obsessed with growth, so they will do what it takes to cut into each others user bases, but when will a company be big enough? The startup scene like the tech journalism scene is always trying to scale, and in the process loses their integrity and quality. As Joshua Topolsky says in his article about media businesses:
…with every new set of eyeballs (or clicks, or views) we added, we diminished the merit of what we made. And advertisers asked for more, because those eyes were worth less. And we made more. And it was less valuable.
The media industry and these social networks are all headed in the same direction. Selling out for scale.
So whats going to happen?
All social media networks will one day just become distribution platforms for user created content. They will monetize by pushing companies content to the users for a fee. The user will make a video, take a photo or want to connect with someone and have to choose between multiple mediums which accomplish the same thing. These apps will no longer fill the niches they were specialized for. Then… well I don’t know. Only time will tell?
Moral of the story? Don’t “Scale for scales sake.”
Thanks to Gagik Etibaryan for peer reviewing. This is my first article on Medium so he was a huge help.