Snapchat Was Just Forced to Copycat Instagram

A story of impulse, habit, and the battle for your camera.

Instagram is putting the heat on Snapchat. And I love it.

I quit Snapchat stories a few months back. I was tired of all the sleazy featured stories that were always plastered all over that page, so I decided to jump ship and try Instagram stories instead. I, like many, had rolled my eyes when Instagram first copied Snapchat like this, but I was surprised to find that Instagram’s story tools have gotten good. Really good. Instagram has better captioning tools. They’re more flexible, more interesting, and allow for more creativity. They’re fun!

But more importantly, Instagram stories are better because you can post pictures or videos from your phone’s camera roll. This allows for even more creativity. I can post time-lapses or photos that I’ve edited in other apps. The stories I see from my church and local businesses are amazing. These people are putting a lot of time into creating incredible, professional looking stories.

Why doesn’t this happen on Snapchat? The answer is found in this app update that popped up in my feed about two weeks ago:

Snapchat used to have this weird white box around any post that you didn’t take directly with Snapchat’s camera. It was awkward. The idea was to force people to use the Snapchat camera.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. When something cool happens in front of you, what do you do? More than likely, you pull out your phone. Then what? Do you launch the stock camera app, Snapchat, Instagram, or something else? I think many, many, people would answer that they open Snapchat.

Snapchat wants to be your camera app. They want everything you capture on your phone to go through Snapchat first. And they want you to share every moment – as long as you captured it in their app.

I’m sure Instagram wants this too – but they’ve decided to take a different approach. Instagram has decided to let you post whatever you want to your story, whenever you want. Instagram is aiming for quality over quantity. Maximum engagement looks like this: Take lots of pictures, caption them quickly, and post them to your story. Curation is different: Take lots of pictures (using your full-quality stock camera app), and then post the best on your story.

There is no way I’m going to document my entire life using both Snapchat and Instagram. That’s why this battle is important. And Snapchat was just forced to give up some ground. Instagram copied Snapchat, that much is for sure. But I honestly think Instagram is doing the majority of the innovating in this space now. I guess copycatting can go both ways.

Snapcash: Not Sure I Understand

Last week, the smash hit photo messaging app Snapchat unveiled a new feature: Snapcash.  Snapchat has partnered with Square to add money sending features to Snapchat.  To use this feature, you must be 18 years old, and you must link your debit card to your Snapchat account.  If you’re already scratching your head, I don’t blame you; I was also confused when I first saw this.  In my opinion, there’s two main problems with this feature.

The first problem is Snapchat’s implementation.  I haven’t actually used Snapcash, but from what Snapchat said, it seems all you have to do to send money is type a dollar sign and then an amount, such as “$20,” in a message.  This must be done from the text-only messaging screen, photo captions don’t count.  To me, this seems to make it too easy to send money.  Imagine you’re talking to a friend, and you casually say something like, “Today I was at the store going to buy such and such, but it was $100, so I decided not to.”  As far as I can tell, you’ve just sent that person $100.  I think the send button changes color to indicate that you’re about to send money, but in my opinion there should be at least one other confirmation prompt.  What this actually reminds me of is Amazon.com’s one-click ordering.  It’s convenient, but you have to be very, very, careful.

The other problem I have with Snapcash is a more basic one: it just doesn’t make sense.  Messaging is great, and so is sending money, but I don’t see any overlap here.  I’ve never thought to myself, “You know, it’d be really great if I could send money over Snapchat!”  I commend Snapchat for trying to add features to their service, but I think they may be looking in the wrong place.  Then again, maybe I’m wrong.  Who knows?  This could be good after all.  For now, though, I’m just not sure I get it.  ••