So Facebook just straight up copied Snapchat.
And they aren’t being subtle at all that they did.
OK, technically Instagram copied Snapchat, but it’s really Facebook since they own Instagram.
Check out a couple screenshots of what they’re calling “Instagram Stories.” There’s being very bold and obvious about it:
But maybe it’s fair game. Copying is sometimes the right thing to do.
Honestly, I have no problem with the fact it was stolen and neither should any great CEO, as long as it’s completely legal.
Why do I say this?
Well, a lot of the best businessman of all time have credited their success to shamelessly copying ideas.
This includes Steve Jobs who said:
“I’ve been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Or you can look at Sam Walton, someone who has possibly made the most money in the history of humankind with Walmart. He said in his book Made in America:
“Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else.”
One last example from the co-founder of Costco, the most overlooked success story of modern business:
“If we see some good ideas someplace, we’re inhibited. We’ll rush out there as quickly as we can to take great ideas.” -Jim Sinegal, Source: CNBC
Now, there are people who will swear away from copying anyone else because it’s unoriginal. And I see others crying about someone copying about them (like this guy from Shark Tank who found out his cousin copied his belt design behind his back). I understand that part of this is to be ethical. And I cheer that part on because I admire ethics and try and be as ethical as I can.
But there’s also a time when copying should be done:
- When you’ll be left behind by the competition if you don’t.
- When you know it’s better for the consumer to make your product this way.
- When it’s perfectly legal to do so (therefore, you should not copy when there’s a patent or it’s a song).
Sam Walton didn’t start Walmart initially. He ran a convenience store. Then, he saw all the other convenience stores go out of business when discount retail stores started coming in. He could’ve moped and complained like everyone else while he watched himself go out of business. But he started his own discount retail store instead.
I’m not saying it’s right at all for a relative to rip off your idea behind your back. I think that belt guy will rightfully face some consequences from his family because of his dirty actions. It shows how low self-esteem he is that he can’t come up with his own idea that he’d steal from his family.
What I am saying is that business can be cut-throat and you need to expect that someone will copy you. I’ve discovered a lot of successful CEOs, like the billionaire Martha Stewart, has said that she never cries over money or business. It’s not something to feel like you’re wronged. When you screw up and lose money, you assess what you did wrong, learn, and try again. Sitting around crying does you no good.
It was a dick move for that guy’s cousin to copy the belt design… but someone would have copied him eventually. In fact, many people will copy you. To sit around and complain about it for too long on the Internet is a waste of time. It implies that you haven’t considered the possibility that new competitors will come in and copy you.
Literally every industry has been like this. Where there’s money to be made, competitors will emerge.
China is rampant with copying:
- They’ve made copycats of the iPhone.
- They’ve made their version of Google called Baidu, which dominates.
- They have their own WhatsApp-type service called WeChat.
Rather than complain or freak out if someone copies you, you should consider doing what Warren Buffett suggests:
“In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable moats.”
What the heck does that mean?
A moat is basically your competitive advantage. Buffett suggests that you should be looking to increase that advantage everyday. Apple is generally unphased by the Chinese knock-off products because:
- They’ve build a ton of brand loyalty and recognition. Something that performs the exact same will be passed over for one with an Apple logo.
- They’re constantly staying on the cutting edge of new technology. Rather than only being the reactive copycat, they’re always coming out with something new.
Copying isn’t anything new. Microsoft copied the iPod with the Zune and stole parts of their graphic user interface from Apple. Google tried to copy Facebook with Google Plus (and failed).
Facebook Ripped Off Twitter’s Periscope Too
If you weren’t plugged into social media news, Periscope used to be the hottest thing ever during the start of 2016.
Well, kinda. I think it was a bit over-hyped and it seemed like it was mainly marketers and adults with online followings who wanted to get “ahead of the curve” who used it.
But the point is that it was a live streaming app on your phone that got bought out by Twitter. It was pretty hot and the main thing was the “heart” feature. Each time you tapped the screen, a heart would pop up during the live stream. The more people who tapped at once, the more hearts came up.
…And around May 2016, Facebook really went serious with Live video and then stole the emoticon feature.
Will It Work Or Will It Flop?
I don’t know. Research has shown that expert predictions in most fields (from economics to finance) tend to be wrong so I’ll keep my predictions to a minimum.
I will say this:
The Periscope copy was more subtle and something they could (and seemed to) get away with. And the potential was clearly huge: I literally see girls my age glued to Facebook all day. They’ve never heard of Periscope. By simply adding a Periscope-like feature to the Facebook mobile app, they’ve got the best of every world:
- Individuals have a pre-existing following of their family and friends to spread their Facebook Live video too.
- Facebook’s native sharing platform let’s content go viral quickly and it did when a woman livestreamed on Facebook her husband being falsely shot by a cop, sparking a viral nationwide movement that impacted millions called #BlackLivesMatter.
These set up Facebook to stamp out possible reasons for Periscope to exist and take over market share (Periscope still has the “discover people by location” option as one of its unique features though. But they do seem to have lost quite a bit of ground other the other big fronts.)
As far as the Snapchat copycat… That’s may be another story because Snapchat is considered one of the big social media platforms already. And this type of blatant copying is a slap to Snapchat’s face. They’re not even trying to hide at all the fact that they copied.
I’m wondering how the people at Snapchat HQ are reacting to this right now.
Arguably, it may be similar to when Google Plus came out or when Facebook copied Twitter by allowing status updates. But maybe bigger. I don’t know.
It’s interesting to see how it’ll progress. Will Snapchat file a lawsuit? Will they have to rescind this or will they still get to keep this feature even after a long, drawn-out lawsuit? It’s clear that Instagram is going for a similar strategy of “take their features and build it on our pre-existing social media infrastructure to allow for more discovery.”
I personally like this change. Things were starting to slow down a bit in the social media world. Snapchat seemed to be (or may still be) at the height of its popularity. It was getting old for me.
I like a new change. Plus, it’s arguably more convenient for some of us. We might be able to just build a following on Instagram rather than having to build one on Snapchat AND Instagram.
The fact that it’s basically an exact clone could make it less appealing though. If it simply does everything Snapchat does, then what’s the point? It’s not adding anything new and there might not be much of an appeal. I’m curious to see how followers engage with this new feature. If it’s good, it could do well.
In the book Rework, the author said that if you’re simply copying, you can never be #1 because you’ll always be a reactive clone at best that’s just like somebody else. In fact, Instagram Stories is currently a worse version than the original right now because it doesn’t have any of Snapchat’s iconic face filters (which are obviously harder to copy) or any filters at all yet.
An article by Next Web argued that it’s better because it makes it clearer for tech savvy adults who aren’t into social media, which helps them understand Snapchat easier. First off, I don’t think those people are even on Instagram – Insta isn’t that straightforward. And the features they say make it easier are stuff like “a button that says Submit rather than just an arrow.” Minor stuff.
I’m excited to see what the future holds but I really have no idea. I’m just guessing. But this is definitely an interesting year for tech and social media businesses with Virtual Reality and all this other stuff.
What do you think about all this?
P.S. It wasn’t just Zuckerberg behind this. Facebook has thousands of employees. I’m sure it was a multi-person decision to do this.