By now you’ve probably heard the story…
Snapchat created the stories format, a vertical photo and video platform designed for content to expire and disappear in 24 hours. Then, Facebook-owned Instagram wholesale stole the idea. Years later, Instagram is the dominant story platform and anti-competitive practices win again.
I want to advocate that Snapchat return the favor but first, let’s talk about the theft of ideas.
Great Artists Steal?
Picasso famously said:
Good Artists Copy, Great Artists StealPablo Picasso
It’s been said over and over. So, let’s quickly unpack that.
- He didn’t literally mean to copy exactly or clone as-is.
- By “copy” he meant to create something in the same way as someone else such that the influences and inspirations are clearly seen and therefore the work is regarded as a copy
- By “steal” he meant to use the other work as inspiration such that by incorporating and then building upon those original styles and ideas that you create something new that you now own. You have hence stolen from something else.
Now let’s think about the system in which any of these ideas exist.
In an ideal world, ideas would be shared freely and without reservation. In this system, sharing ideas would be encouraged to advance all of humankind without disadvantaging anyone. “Intellectual Property” laws would be mostly unnecessary in this type of a system because in this system, there would be no incentive to steal (not in the Picasso sense) another person’s idea for your own benefit. If someone in this particular system copied one of your paintings exactly, brush-stroke-for-brush-stroke, you should still be able to have food, water, shelter, and healthcare. In this system, the work is what is important, not the commercial viability of the work. You would create it for the love of creating it. Still with me, comrades?
But, that’s not the world we live in.
The world WE live in is cut-throat. Kill or be killed. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps or die of hunger.
It’s your “choice.”
There are some obvious factors that undermine the purity of your “choices” in this ideology. Things like:
- generational wealth
- historical and present day exploitation of people and resources
- systemic bias by race, gender, sexuality, or disability that lead some people to having more opportunities and success
The bottom line relative to this particular discussion is that those with money can basically do whatever they want.
In the case of Facebook v Snapchat (not a real court case) is that our current system creates the conditions whereby the larger and more capital rich you are, the more freedom you have to engage in intellectual property theft and other anti-competitive or unethical practices.
“Go ahead, sue me. I’ll bury you in legal fees.”Whoever has more money
So, when Snapchat had something unique and cool, and Facebook just took it for themselves, that’s an example of a larger company pushing around a smaller one by (literally) stealing their ideas. As a user of Instagram stories, I can confirm that it’s a well designed platform that is better than Snapchat in many ways including its commercial appeal. That said, the launch of Instagram stories marked the beginning of a considerable shift from Snapchat to Instagram.
So, should we all just be ok that Facebook did this? I’d argue that we shouldn’t, but short of changing the system, what are the options?
Instagram launched IGTV (Instagram TV) in 2018. It was designed to directly compete with Youtube. It launched as a vertical video-only platform with videos up to 10 minutes. Now you can post both landscape and portrait video, and the limitations have been increased up to 15 minutes from mobile and 60 minutes from desktop.
The success of IGTV is difficult to measure as the company has been both tight lipped about it and anything that a Facebook owned company says is (hopefully) now being taken with a hefty grain of salt given, its pattern, of, lying, repeatedly. With that said, it certainly hasn’t displaced Youtube in any meaningful or noticeable way.
I think there is still an opening for a new video app that plays in the same sandbox as Youtube and does a better job than IGTV. Great artists steal…
It’s time for Snapchat to take a shot at hitting IGTV where it hurts. Here’s my pitch…
Build it so they can’t copy you
The enemy of my enemy is my friendProverb, Unknown Source
While IGTV could leverage Facebook and Instagram to grow, Snapchat has no loyalties to consider so they could launch their own copycat product called SnapTV and partner with IG’s primary competitor: Youtube. This gives SnapTV a growth opportunity that IGTV cannot or most likely will not take advantage of. Because Instagram is now wholly in the business of keeping people on Instagram or Facebook so they can sell ads, it’s unlikely that they would take the step of partnering with their #1 competitor Youtube. Snapchat, while also dependent on advertisements, has yet to hit its stride and therefore has more flexibility to try new things.
In this case, I would advise that the two companies collaborate and co-brand the platform similar to how Vevo is integrated into Youtube. SnapTV drives the content and Youtube manages the ad platform splitting the profits with Snap Inc.
Further, IGTV has no defining feature…it’s basically just another mobile video app. This leaves the door open for SnapTV to do something distinctive that they are already known for. Back in 2015, there were apps that let you distort your appearance but it was Snapchat and their puking unicorn that popularized lenses.
To this day, they still have among the best lenses in the game and now have a lens creator app to make your own. So, since Snap is a camera company that popularized lenses why not change the vlogging game by making lenses a standard part of the SnapTV capture platform. This opens up an entirely new form of vlogging that has, thus far, not gone beyond 10 seconds. This unique feature could make SnapTV a new originating app for content, much in the same way people are posting their TikTok videos everywhere in hopes of gaining a larger TikTok following.
I believe this is an example of what Picasso meant when he said great artists steal. Instagram Stories is a copy. There was little added or built upon. It was just theft.
This version of SnapTV gives us something different by building upon something else, and making it new.
A Few Clarifications Before We Wrap Up
What I’m suggesting is a new Snapchat app called SnapTV that publishes landscape videos (and vertical if you really want) to a co-branded Snapchat and Youtube platform inside of both Youtube and the SnapTV app. The defining feature would be unlimited length, easy vlogging, and most importantly, Snapchat lenses. Snapchat would be the messaging platform and shortform stories, where SnapTV would be long form videos cross posted and promoted on Youtube.
The platform should have the following:
- Support vertical and landscape video but should favor landscape for integration with Youtube and ease of watching longer videos.
- Video capture, with…
- Unlimited Length
- Snapchat Lenses
- The lenses should be added from a marketplace and reusable. If the lenses keep changing, it makes it difficult for creators.
- Simple vlogging capture, like the VlogEasy app. This reduces editing time making it easier for people to vlog.
- A simple editor (I recommend buying and integrating the app InShot
- The ability to enable automatic sharing to Youtube
- Youtube editable fields prior to publishing: title, description, and tags
- The ability to set an expiration date for a video to disappear
My Final Pitch For Why They Should Do This
Aside from the fun we’d all have seeing an entirely new category of vlogs created by people embodying new characters on account of a virtually infinite supply of lenses…
Snapchat is a unique company that, to its credit, seems to have a better grip on how social and media should ideally fit into our lives in a healthy way, than do Zuck & Co. So while Snapchat is coming up with the ideas that Facebook and its subsidiaries clone, Facebook and IG are laughing all their way to the bank with few repercussions. Snapchat was severely wronged by Facebook/Instagram and they should hit back by stealing something from them or at the very least hitting them in the wallet a bit. IGTV is a weak platform in my opinion primarily because there is nothing unique or special about it. It’s just lazy.
Snapchat can muscle up by working with the monstrosity that is Youtube. This could help them slaw back some of the users that they lost to Instagram, and/or create a new platform for vlogging.
I could be wrong but…
I also can’t help myself from coming up with ideas like this and writing them down. If you don’t believe me, check out a few of the other times I got an idea in my head and had to write about it:
- Me.com Is The Privacy-Focused Social Network That Only Apple Can Build
- Here’s how we save Twitter
- The Resurrection of Google+
Also published on Medium.