Snap Inc.’s lesser than expected performance report wasn’t the only bad news for the company this week. At Facebook’s F8 developer conference, The Social Network revealed that its other Snapchat Stories clone, WhatsApp Status, now has more than 450 million daily active users, up from the 300 million the company reported last November.
That’s a problem for Snapchat, because while Snap has kept is focus on western markets, and largely ignored most other parts of the world, in order for the app to grow, it will, at some point, need to shift focus onto new regions.
And while Instagram has now become the default Stories option in most western regions (now up to 300 million users in its own right), WhatsApp pretty much covers everywhere else. Now, if Snapchat were to try and branch into new markets, WhatsApp will have beaten them there, with similar features and tools, making Snapchat seem like the copycat - and potentially a lesser version at that.
Indeed, to further increase its hold on these markets, WhatsApp’s also rolling out new stickers and group video calling, adding to its Snapchat-like features.
The numbers are fairly clear – Snapchat, now at 191 million daily active users, is falling behind in social Stories, the sharing option it pioneered. Facebook has even noted this week that Stories will soon surpass the News Feed as the primary way to share content on social.
That must be a tough pill for Evan Spiegel and Co. to swallow.
But of course, Stories aren’t the primary usage option for Snapchatters - data published earlier this year showed that personal messages are far more popular, with Snap users around 64% more likely to send a snap to a friend, rather than post to Stories. Given this, the democratization of Stories is not the end of Snapchat necessarily, though as noted, it will make wider adoption more difficult in regions where the novelty and allure of the app has already been replicated on platforms local users are familiar with.
For WhatsApp, the increased usage will give parent company Facebook more incentive to better monetize the app - and that may evolve even faster now, with WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum recently announcing that he’s leaving the company. Koum had long been opposed to Facebook’s moves with the app, particularly in regards to data usage, but with Koum no longer at the helm, that may enable Facebook to push ahead with their development plans – whether they be for better or worse in the long run.
But in terms of impact, it’s hard to ignore the pressure this puts on Snap. There are still plenty of opportunities, no one would be willing to count Snapchat out. But the dominance of Facebook will undoubtedly force a change in their direction.