From rip-off to convention

A few weeks back when Instagram launched Stories, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over how it had ripped off Snapchat, to which Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s founder and CEO basically said “Yaaas!” followed by “LOL!”.

He rightfully pointed out that different platforms had solved different challenges that were now design conventions. Facebook’s Newsfeed has been adopted by Twitter, by LinkedIn, and by Instagram who all tailored it to their own needs over time. The trick is of course that the news feed is built by a variety of sources, whereas Stories attacks the core platform of Instagram’s (and by proxy, Facebook’s) biggest competitor.

In reality this is not unlike Google’s Docs, a move made in 2007, long before we all shifted everything we had to the cloud. Their cash cow was search, and their biggest rival at the time was Microsoft, who made a very significant chunk of their earnings from Office. Google didn’t need to win that fight, it just needed to poke enough holes to make Microsoft nervous and create a significant distraction, which they did so successfully. Microsoft tried the same thing with Bing — I’ll let you do your own research regarding how that fared.

But I digress — last week we talked about the way we use tools change based on what arrived after we became aware of them vs. what was native. Video tools on my phone will never be native to me, but they are to a teenager, which is why you see video-first platforms overrun with a younger demographic: those platforms weren’t made for you and I to begin with. So if we look at Instagram, someone that signs up tomorrow won’t see Stories as a recent add-on, they’ll see it as core to the platform.

That shift is significant and not properly appreciated.

Once we see another 2 or 3 services adopt the same approach to video, Instagram’s Stories move won’t be a callous rip-off, it will be the adoption of a design convention, much the way the Newsfeed is now. Each of these businesses has so many problems they’re trying to solve each day, good enough really is good enough.

Or, as your friend and mine Faris likes to say talent imitates, genius steals (that quote shamelessly stolen of course!).

Instagram (and Facebook again by proxy) clearly have the smartest people in the room.

#nowplaying Voices (Pt. II) by Lucas Nord

I’m trying to write every day. Why don’t you try too?