Instagram is apparently killing it with its Stories feature. Facebook is testing Stories on top of the News Feed in Instagram. Now, according to leaks, WhatsApp’s iOS beta has an update to the ‘Status’ tab, which could soon allow users to post videos and photos that will be visible for 24 hours.
If you go by the leaks, WhatsApp’s Status will be the next to follow the Snapchat-inspired Stories path, and will also let people see how many friends have viewed their Stories. For Snapchat and its parent company Snap Inc., which has recently filed for an IPO, this can’t come as good news. Reports have already indicated Snapchat’s content creators are seeing a drop in views for their Stories, since Instagram rolled out the feature on its own platform.
A TechCrunch report, which quoted social content production companies, pointed out how Snapchat had seen a drop in Stories, and creators have been posting less on the platform. The report also quoted data from AppAnnie to show how Snapchat has taken a hit in rankings, and continues to see a dip.
Another report from BuzzFeed showed Snapchat’s significant lead over Instagram in the US had dipped once the Stories featured rolled out on Instagram.The report also relied on AppAnnie data. Plus, Snapchat will have trouble growing in markets outside of US. There’s a Snapchat clone called Snow, which is popular in Japan and South Korea.
When you come to a market like India, where WhatsApp is already the dominant messenger, Snapchat has an even tougher path ahead of it. The company openly admits has an advantage in markets where cellular connectivity is better.
The filing reads, “Our ability to succeed in any given country is largely dependent on its mobile infrastructure and its advertising market.” In India as we know mobile infrastructure is shaky at best, though slowly improving.
Snap Inc’s filing goes on to say, “Our products often require intensive processing and generate high bandwidth consumption by our users.” In India, WhatsApp naturally ends up becoming the choice for a lot of users since the app works on 2G, and has a data-saving option as well.
The other problem for Snapchat is that its dominantly a video and photo-based platform. Snap Inc calls itself a camera company and says, “We believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This is because images created by smartphone cameras contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard.”
While all of that sounds really great in a developed market like the US or EU nations with stable mobile networks and fast WiFi at homes, the picture is very different in developing countries. A messaging app centred around uploading videos and photos means significant data consumption, which might not appeal to everyone in India.
Snapchat itself admits this has become an issue on Android. “Additionally, in mid-2016, we launched several products and released multiple updates, which introduced a number of technical issues that diminished the performance of our application,” says the SEC filing, which is not an encouraging line.
The filing adds it has seen a reduction in growth of Daily Active Users, “particularly among Android users and regions with a higher percentage of Android devices.” In India, which is expected to have an internet population of 500 million by 2020, Android is the dominant OS.
It also admits that rivals launching similar features has meant increased competition. This is where WhatsApp’s Stories clones could be even more lethal for Snapchat. Most people over the age of 30 think Snapchat is hard to figure out. The UI with its focus on the camera might appeal to teens, but not everyone can figure out the complexity of trophies, Snapchat score, lenses, or even how to add friends. Finding ‘Official Snapchat’ accounts of celebrities can also be a problem. It doesn’t have a feed like Instagram constantly telling users who to follow or what videos to watch.
If WhatsApp already rolls out Stories in a simpler and easy to use way, a lot of users might just stick with that, instead of downloading a new messaging app. WhatsApp already has over 160 million monthly active users, and is likely to grow further in India. From family groups to office groups, pretty much anyone with a smartphone in India is on WhatsApp. The rollout of a new feature might not necessarily mean that everyone will use it, but it will definitely ensure that people won’t be able to tell what’s so different about Snapchat. That could make all the difference.