In 2013, Facebook approached Snapchat with a $3 billion (roughly Rs. 16,500 crore) buyout offer, which then had just 5 million daily active users. Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of the company now called Snap, quickly declined. When Snap went public early last month, it was valued at $28 billion (about Rs. 1.85 lakh crores). And that number of users had grown to 158 million.
Due to Spiegel’s success in attracting young people to the short-lived messaging platform, Facebook tried every trick in the book to steal Snapchat’s thunder. There were a few standalone clones that failed along the way, and it relentlessly copied one of Snapchat’s great innovations, with varying degrees of success. It has extensively implemented “Stories”, a slideshow of images and videos viewable by all subscribers for only 24 hours after uploading.
First, Facebook brought this to Instagram in August last year. Then, the same functionality was implemented in WhatsApp two months ago, in what was called a modification of the existing WhatsApp status. As for Messenger last month, Facebook called it Messenger Day. And just a few weeks ago, all of Snapchat’s core functionality — including the ability to apply augmented reality masks, or Lenses as most know them — was integrated right into the Facebook app.
It’s clear that Facebook’s approach to stomping on Snapchat isn’t a clever integration. It’s more like carpet bombing. But it seems to have worked. Just last week, Instagram announced that over 200 million people are using its Stories feature. That’s more users than Snapchat has on its entire platform. When Facebook acquired the photo-sharing platform in 2012, it had about 30 million total users, and today it has about 600 million. And yet, Instagram has the smallest user base among Facebook’s top four properties.
Facebook is by far the largest social network in the world, with nearly 2 billion users. WhatsApp, Facebook’s biggest $19 billion buyout, itself has a billion users. Messenger, a feature that was created on its own, also has a billion users. And because it has users, Facebook can woo developers and advertising dollars better than any other.
That’s what Mark Zuckerberg – the man himself – did earlier this week at the company’s developer-oriented conference, F8. In a snap on Snapchat, the co-founder and CEO said the arrival of AR-enabled filters and effects was just the “first phase” of their plan. And where Snapchat has at most two dozen filters, Zuckerberg noted that Facebook will have thousands by opening it up to creators around the world. And while he hasn’t said so, you can bet brands will be allowed in on the action too.
“We’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform,” Zuckerberg added. In its second act, Facebook will expand the reach of augmented reality to include everything in your environment. Put sharks around your breakfast bowl? You got it. Take a still image and convert it to 3D? Easily doable, he says. Identify a coffee cup and suggest relevant effects, such as steam? Yeah, it’s on its way.
Snapchat’s Spiegel obviously isn’t ready to give up. On the day of the Facebook event, Snapchat rolled out “World Lenses” that let you do exactly what Zuckerberg showed off. You can place text and make it behave like a real-world object, or plant virtual flowers in the ground that you can then interact with. And while Facebook gave the tools to developers in a beta phase, Snap’s offerings are already available to everyone.
But Zuckerberg won’t care. When you have the keys to the four biggest social networks on the planet, being late to the party doesn’t really bother you. And that allowed it – and in turn, Facebook – to play the long game. The company’s purchase of Oculus for more than $2 billion (around Rs. . Would Facebook serve its News Feed in virtual reality and place ads all around us?
Turns out not really. Nearly three years after the acquisition, Facebook’s social VR division unveiled its first product in beta: Facebook Spaces, a virtual hangout for you and your friends, filled with digital avatars, customizable environments, and even games. video calls for those who don’t. own an Oculus Rift. No other company is betting as much on virtual reality as Facebook, and Zuckerberg made it clear at this week’s conference that augmented reality would receive similar attention.
The 32-year-old multi-billionaire Thinking Glasses would be the ‘first mainstream augmented reality platform’, not the Spectacles genre, but a the Google Glass. For now, it’s focused on the camera. Facebook’s ultimate vision is to let AR overcome the restrictions of your phone screen on glasses and maybe even contact lenses, where it then controls literally What you see. But he knows that the required technology is not there yet.
“Even though we’ve been slow to add cameras to all of our apps, I’m confident that we’re going to be the ones pushing this technology forward,” Zuckerberg added. Snapchat may have popularized camera effects with young people – most of them Millennials – but thanks to its reach and investment, it will be the billions of users across the various platforms. from Facebook who will witness the advent of next-level AR. where they already are.
Once that happens, they won’t feel the need to switch to Snapchat anymore. And Facebook would still have won.