February 22, 2017
Messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new image-based Status feature that allows users to post a disappearing Status update, which erases after 24 hours just like Snapchat Stories. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has a pattern of integrating Snapchat-like features into its apps, such as Instagram and Facebook Messenger. With the new Status feature, a major departure for the text-based application, WhatsApp hopes to capitalize on the success of the format that Snapchat originated, which emphasizes videos and ephemeral content.
The majority of the 50 million messages sent daily via WhatsApp are text messages, but the new Statuses will be image-based. Users will be able to post photos, videos, or even GIFs as their WhatsApp status, which will disappear after 24 hours. The status can be sent to multiple friends directly, similar to the way Snapchat users can message their photos or videos.
WhatsApp is just the latest in a series of Facebook-owned apps that have added features mimicking Snapchat. Instagram has come up with its own version of Snapchat Stories. Facebook even added a Snapchat-inspired camera to its popular Messenger app.
The New York Times reports that these apps operate largely independent from Facebook, so it’s hard to assess how much of the imitation was an orchestrated effort. The executives of Instagram and WhatsApp credit Snapchat for creating a new format for consuming media.
Whether or not these apps can replicate Snapchat’s success could have major implications for the future of Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat that will go public next month. Six months after the launch of Instagram stories, 150 million users are using the feature daily. Snapchat has barely stayed ahead of Instagram with an average of 158 million daily users last year.
TechCrunch reports Snapchat growth slowed 82 percent after Instagram debuted Stories. With WhatsApp adopting a similar feature, Snapchat may face challenges in growing its user base in the future.