The Story of ‘Stories’
“When we have a new product, we apply for a patent before we produce it.” — Stephen Huo
It is a competitive world out there and your competitors will do almost anything to try and exploit the loopholes in your services. Give them a reason and you shall discover that’s all they will ever need. The question is can you blame them for their brazen move?
All was well for Snapchat till a small company named Facebook announced that one of their star products, WhatsApp, a messaging app was going to roll out a story feature eerily identical to Snapchat’s.
This ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s ‘story’ feature was the sole reason for its meteoric rise in the market. In an age of permanence, timelines, and revenge posts, Snapchat created a way for teens to share photos freely — without the ramifications of other social services like Facebook. The easy-to-use, self-destructing transiency of the experience feels more human in its interaction than regular MMS, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It goes from a timeline point of view — a historic record of activity — to fleeting, in the moment captures that allow users to drop many of the filters we’re taught to put on what we share.
By the time cynics began to foresee Snapchat’s upward trajectory, it was already in the top 5 photo sharing apps, and it hasn’t looked back. Snapchat has not only been one of the top downloads for photo and video app but has consistently been one of the top overall apps downloaded in the App Store.
Amidst all the noise, they had an oversight that has now clearly cost them. Before they realised, Instagram happened. Another product of Facebook, Instagram which was until then subdued by Snapchat’s success gave Snapchat a run for its money with a similar (well, the same) feature. Fortunately, things did not go downhill for Snapchat for they had other unique selling points like state of the art facial filters. These filters were constantly evolving every day to suit their users’ whims. This success continued while Snapchat basked in the glory of its increasing user engagement that was faster than any what other texting platform had every witnessed.
Needless to say, skeptics kept questioning its sustainability often pointing fingers at its growth engine. Facebook served a huge blow to Snapchat’s ongoing trajectory by announcing ‘WhatsApp Statuses’. This strategy comes as a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a video-first social media and the revamping of Facebook and its subsidiaries reflect this paradigm shift. If pitted against each other, WhatsApp would topple Snapchat sheerly with its vast user base touching over a billion users worldwide. Throw in a Snapchat-like feature alongside its intuitive user experience and file sharing add-ons, WhatsApp can turn into a nightmarish experience for its peers. Personally, it’s evident that WhatsApp ripped off Snapchat but does it fall under the legal ambit? Absolutely. They destroyed Viber by introducing voice calling, nearly beat Skype in their game by rolling out VoIP video calls and now this. One can only imagine Snapchat’s reception to such a news. However, there is a vital lesson to be learnt here.
When in doubt, patent!
The questions we must be asking is will WhatsApp patent ‘stories’? What happens to Snapchat if it does? Will Snapchat bounce back? Well if it does, it has to do so with yet another game-changer.