Snapchat, the social app once at the top of ephemeral photo- and video-sharing, has seen its user growth stall and Wall Street value plummet in recent months. It's worth noting that all happened in coincidence with the rise of the suspiciously Snapchat-like Stories feature on Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing social app owned by Facebook, which surpassed Snapchat in daily users earlier this summer.
Now, if the idea of Facebook coming along and eating another popular social media network’s lunch sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Remember MySpace? It was basically Facebook before Facebook. Then, Facebook came along to convince everybody to become Facebook friends instead of MySpace friends, and that was the end of MySpace.
So, with Facebook’s Instagram going all in on ephemeral picture and video sharing, is the same thing now happening to Snapchat? Is Facebook MySpace-ing Snapchat?
Here are some reasons why it certainly seems a little different, starting with Snapchat's size of user base.
In 2009, when MySpace finally lost the top social media network ranking to Facebook, both services had around 70 million active users. Snapchat, even though it’s far behind Instagram’s 500 (million) users, has nearly 170 million users today, more than twice the sets of human eyes it can cling to for ad revenue and social traction while it wards off Facebook
Sam Sheffer is a social media personality and content creator across several online platforms, Snapchat included. He told Circa that Instagram has become the hotter platform for engagement, sure, but that Snapchat has enough users, and the “it” factor needed, to bounce back or at least ward off a total collapse.
"There’s still 150 million people using Snapchat every month, so even though it’s not skyrocketing in growth, I don’t think by any means [Snapchat is] dead," Sheffer said. "There’s still a very, very consistent, hungry audience. I’ll post and it’ll get 10 - 12,000 views within the 24 hours."
Another positive to keep in mind, if you’re holding onto figurative or literal Snapchat stock, is that the network has grown this far leaning almost entirely on young users. And, according to surveys, it still has an edge in that demographic, which is the all-important "future" of internet and social media users.
Of course, losing growth momentum has inspired Snapchat to redesign its app to, hopefully, better appeal to non-teens, too. The new Snapchat will simplify its mishmash, hard-to-figure-out design and do a better job of separating the "social" (your friends) from the "media" (Discovery and brands/celebrities), as Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegal put it.
VCU Assistant professor Marcus Messner told Circa that he’s bullish on Snapchat's choice to go with an app redesign.
"I think that’s what they’re trying to do with their redesign, where it becomes easier for older generations – and we’re talking about 30- or 40-years-olds – to actually get a grasp on Snapchat," he said. "I think that has been a challenge for them in that age demographic, and they haven’t ever really targeted them before."
And that’s the last point: Snapchat is actually making moves to adapt and fight for relevance. Even if that sometimes takes the form of a failed camera sunglasses venture, the effort and willingness to change is there. (And, hey, Spectacles 2.0 could be dope. Who knows?)
Sean Parker, former President of Facebook, admitted in an interview several years ago that, had MySpace just gone as far as to copy what Facebook was doing in the late 2000s to steal its users, it could have “become Facebook” and won the fight.
It was inaction that ultimately did in Tom and all of his friends, according to Parker. And that Snapchat isn’t taking things lying down, is just one of the ways it’s trying NOT become the next company to get MySpace-ed.