Snapchat and Facebook consent future of social networks looks like TikTok

TikTok owner ByteDance scraped content from Instagram, Snapchat
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TikTok owner ByteDance 'scraped' content from Instagram, Snapchat

Highlights

Snapchat invented the Stories format to share disappearing images and videos. Stories are out, TikTok is in.

Snapchat invented the Stories format to share disappearing images and videos. Now, the company indicates, along with Facebook, that the future of social networks looks more like TikTok.

In comments to investors for its quarterly earnings report on Thursday, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said less time is spent viewing friends' Stories in the app. However, the company expected Stories engagement to increase as pandemic lockdowns eased and people began to leave their houses more. Instead, Snapchat users increasingly flock to Spotlight videos, Snapchat's rival TikTok for viral videos posted by random creators, and its Discover section for premium programs.

"This is a continuation of the trend we have observed throughout the pandemic, and friend story posting and viewing per daily active user have not returned to pre-pandemic levels," Spiegel said in his comments to investors. "While we are hopeful our community will in time return to the friends' story behaviours that we observed prior to the pandemic, we are focused on innovating on our content offerings to better serve our community today."

While Snap hasn't yet detailed precisely what the changes to its content section will look like, it's easy to imagine the tab becoming more like TikTok by opening up to full-screen videos from the creators of Spotlight, with the ability to drill down into shows Discover's longest. Spiegel noted that some Spotlight creators already have their recurring shows on the app, supporting "our vision of Spotlight as a platform where audiences can discover new Creators, topics, and communities, and then engage with them more deeply on Discover."

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook parent company Meta, also identified TikTok as a formidable threat this week. "People have a lot of choices about how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing really fast," he said during Meta's fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. Unlike Snap, which continues to grow its user base and shows better-than-expected revenue growth, Meta disappointed investors with its earnings report this week, wiping more than $200 billion off its market value in one day, beating the record it had previously set in 2018.

So while Snap and Meta's business performance is being divulged, it's notable that they both view TikTok as competition. New engaging formats, whether it's Stories or TikTok video, have the potential to shift user attention quickly. Snap invented a format that is now ubiquitous, but now it and Meta are trying to catch up.

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