Social media has evolved rapidly over the last fifteen years—with platforms constantly offering new and exciting features to entice users. When the social media frenzy began:
- Facebook was known for its easy-to-use interface and multiple features
- Twitter for its (sometimes) challenging character limit
- Instagram for its focus on photo-sharing
Each platform was offering something unique, something that made them stand out. Over time these platforms have occasionally adopted generic features from one another (e.g. status bars, direct messages, and emojis). Yet, they still kept their individuality. Unfortunately, those discreet adoptions of features have become blatant copying.
In 2013, when Snapchat launched its 24-hour disappearing stories, featuring fun facial and voice filters, it slowly gained popularity. The analysts predicted an explosion of user traffic for Snapchat, especially after the launch of the company’s IPO in March 2017. However, right before the launch, Instagram completely ripped off their 24-hour stories concept and implemented it into Instagram. It didn’t take Snapchat users long to migrate to Instagram. By 2017, Instagram was featuring approximately 200 million daily story users making Instagram stories twice as popular as Snapchat. Facebook started testing the same feature on Facebook and Whatsapp. Whatsapp launched their stories feature in February 2017 and Facebook quickly followed through in March.
In August 2020, citing security concerns, Donald Trump gave an executive order to ban China’s video app TikTok from U.S. app stores. He published an order for a complete ban of the app within 90 days if it failed to sell to a U.S. based company. Instagram saw the potential ban as another opportunity, so they jumped on the bandwagon to score another steal. ‘Instagram Reels’ feature 15 to 30-second video reels that allow users to create fun and engaging content. Similar to TikTok, Reels utilizes background music, audio, and original sounds to create video clips. We are already seeing cross-sharing of TikTok videos on Reels as TikTok’s audience merges into Instagram.
Twitter, the microblogging social media site, is quite popular among everyday users, businesses, and politicians. The platform recently announced a feature called “Fleets” which are 24-hour stories that allow you to share your “fleeting” thoughts. It’s just another version of Snapchat’s original idea—nothing new to see here.
With all social media platforms adopting the same features from one after the other, it seems as though the distinctiveness of each social media platform no longer exists.
Something different this way comes?
Snapchat recently announced a new feature called Spotlight. It will highlight the most entertaining videos on Snapchat and “Snap will distribute over $1m every day to Snapchatters who create the top Snaps on Spotlight.” This is an example of an original feature that Snapchat is adopting to lure users from other platforms. It is still too early to tell how this will pan out but I’m betting that it won’t take long for other social media giants to copy this feature too.
In this day and age, technology has transformed the human experience. Evidence suggests technology does not curb creativity but in fact, boosts it. Technology gives users endless possibilities—making it easier to expand productivity and to share creations. If the platforms we use no longer want to think outside the box, will humans become less interested in using the technology to innovate?
Ideally, we should be living in a society that thrives on creativity and originality. However, with social media giants just stealing from one another in hopes of taking the “top spot”, social media no longer feels innovative, it just feels lazy.