Snapchat is the app to be this year. Everyone is trying ways to one-up the messaging app (including Yahoo) that started the self-destructing communication craze. It got a hold on teens, who have shunned Facebook to pick up their smartphones for a more private sharing experience.
Facebook knew Snapchat had an edge and wanted to pick up the startup last year for a reported $3 billion. But that number didn’t sway Snapchat and it continued adding features to the app that made people want it more. Last month, it updated the app (with wild success) to include video chatting and text-based messaging as well, thereby fully deploying its messaging arsenal without losing its core feature – all communication from Snapchat still gets deleted after a short period.
Facebook is now working on its own private sharing app called SlingShot, which would primarily be a video-based service. But can it dethrone Snapchat, which already has a big user base, longer market exposure and has more features?
The one area where Facebook can truly capitalise is by going after Snapchat’s weaknesses. One of them is that the app has just had to pay a large settlement in a lawsuit which alleged messages don’t get destroyed permanently or immediately. Snapchat agreed to the charges to settle with the FTC, so there’s definitely a little bit of stink attached to the app at the moment. Over time, this will evaporate away, so Facebook has a moment’s window to make their play, by releasing a completely secure, self-destructing chat service.
Facebook’s supposed SlingShot app will definitely upset Snapchat’s growth trajectory, but to what extent is currently unknown. Facebook could do most damage is by bundling it into Messenger, rather than releasing it as a standalone app. Messenger remains relevant even as teens leave Facebook, as it’s a way to chat with your FB friends. An added privacy feature would go a long way towards ensuring more engaged users. That seems unlikely given Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to standalone apps.
Private messaging is a big chunk of all smartphone usage. One thing is certain: Facebook will have a huge user base to tap into with SlingShot and the numbers dwarf Snapchat’s active user base. So if SlingShot is any good at all, Facebook has a big pool to tap into. After the high of last year, it may be worrying days for Snapchat.