Remember Flip Video cameras? They were incredibly popular right up until smartphone camera quality got to the point where it was “good enough” for the majority of the population. Then it made no sense to carry an additional video recording device.
The new brouhaha about Instagram launching copycat Snapchat features is going to be a lot like that: people are only going to want to carry one, in this case, video app. And at the end of the day, Instagram’s going to win because it’s won over and over again. Let’s look at some previous victories:
Instagram vs Camera Apps
Just a few years ago, photo apps with various filters and stickers and editing tools were ubiquitous in the app stores. Everyone had their favorite, be it Paper Camera or Pixlr or Camera+ or Camera Awesome or Camera 360 or LINE Camera or what have you.
Now, how many camera apps are in the iTunes 100 as of today? Primsa at #25 (a filter app), Collageable at #69 (a collage app), and Flipagram at #91 (mostly a video app). No competitive photo app hits the top 100 anymore because Instagram has won over that market. Heck, not just photo apps but filter apps, collage apps, video apps, etc. And without 3rd party access to Instagram’s API, which is a great strategic move, it’s too hard to compete. At best, these other apps are niche products that cater to a small segment of the overall user base.
Instagram vs Facebook
If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em. That’s what Facebook did when their attempts to beat Instagram (and Snapchat) with Camera and Poke failed to gain any traction. Zuckerberg was ultimately right to make the $1 billion investment back when Instagram had a “paltry” 30 million users. Today, it has about 500 million monthly active users, which is especially satisfying to Facebook since many users threatened to leave once Instagram was bought by the soulless corporation.
So, in a way, Instagram (and Facebook) won the battle against the fickle users as well.
Instagram vs Flickr
Really, Yahoo killed Flickr. It was mismanaged because it failed to innovate and listen to its own community. But it might have been salvaged if there wasn’t an app that did everything Flickr failed to do, which was/is Instagram.
Only a small percentage of users care about photo quality. Moreover, the majority cares about ease of use and instant gratification. Instagram offered not just the archive for your online photos, but the community that would ooh and ahh over them in real time.
Instagram vs Vine
Did you know? Vine is quietly dying. More than half of Vine’s top accounts have stopped posting on that platform and are headed to Facebook, Snapchat, and increasingly Instagram. When 15 second (and now 60 second) videos arrived on Instagram, Vine’s days were numbered. Especially since Instagram is better for marketers, and even Vine stars need hoverboard money, and the crowd goes where their favorite online personalities go, we’re seeing a mass exodus from one platform to another.
And this is very telling for what will happen with Snapchat. Likewise with Vine, Instagram just added Snapchat’s entire functionality as a feature to its core programming. Likewise with Vine, Snapchat has a monetization problem. And likewise with Vine, Snapchat hasn’t bred any loyalty with its users. That’s sort of the point of semi-private, ephemeral stories: they don’t stick around and neither does the user. Meanwhile, Instagram already has a base of loyal users who were here before this new feature.
Apps and Innovation
There’s a chance that Snapchat will be able to innovate their way out of this, but funny enough, their latest new feature is just to copy Instagram. Pictures and videos that stick around? What a novel idea! And this was launched before Instagram launched their copycat features.
So what can we learn from all this? One, don’t get into a land war with Instagram. But two, great ideas will eventually get copied so don’t stop innovating. Being first to market is a huge advantage, but don’t squander it by resting on your laurels.
Or at least lawyer up and sue for intellectual property infringement.