The end of February wasn’t kind to Snapchat-maker Snap: it rolled out a redesign that users decided they hated, and a single Kylie Jenner tweet about the app sent the company’s stock into a spiral. But, really, Snap’s struggles preceded all of that, due in no small part to rival Instagram.
Facebook-owned Instagram has “borrowed” plenty of features from Snapchat. And in doing so it has managed, in a relatively short period of time, to build what feels like its own successful social silo (provided you can forget about that whole it’s-a-part-of-Facebook thing). The Instagram Stories feature alone — that series of bubbles at the top of the app that shows people’s shared photos and video clips for up to 24 hours — has grown to 300 million daily users, more than Snapchat’s total daily active users. Instagram has AR filters, too; they’re not as good as Snapchat’s, but they’re fun, and if we’re being honest, flattering.
But to compare each feature side-by-side would be a waste of time in a time when app features are so easily copied. The differences between apps like Instagram and Snapchat come down to how people use them, but also, how these apps incentivize different kinds of behavior; whether it’s a teenager frantically messaging a friend, a parent wanting to share one non-hectic moment from their day, or a hashtag-influencer promoting yet another brand. And for the app makers it becomes a delicate balance between providing a tool, amplifying the real world, and creating an overly curated, annoying-ad-driven one.
People may not remember exactly what was posted, but after awhile, they become aware of how an app makes them feel (a bad take on a great quote). Until they move on to the next social app and bring all their friends with them. And then the cycle begins again.