Nov 24, 2020 - Technology

Social media companies all starting to look the same

Data: Axios research; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Snapchat on Monday launched Spotlight, a video tab within its app that, like TikTok, distributes videos based more on how popular they are than on who created them. Facebook in August launched its TikTok competitor, called Reels.

Driving the news: Snapchat's news comes days after Twitter said it would be adding "Fleets," which are basically Snapchat stories for people who tweet. (Nearly every social media app has launched some version of Stories in the past few years.)

The big picture: Tech platforms used to focus on ways to create wildly different products to attract audiences. Today, they all have similar features, and instead differentiate themselves with their philosophies, values and use cases.

  • Instagram launched 10 years ago as a photo-sharing app for artists and design buffs, but now includes everything from live video to shopping to help those creators market and sell their ideas and goods.
  • Snapchat was created as a private messaging app between close friends, but today includes professionally-curated content, games and maps to help close friends develop deeper relationships.
  • Twitter was created as a public ideas platform, but over the years it's made it easier to share images, videos and audio to help users discuss current events.

What to watch: As social media companies adopt similar features, expect them to emphasize how their core values shape their versions of those features.

  • For example, Snapchat was deliberate about making sure Spotlight would be set to private mode by default and wouldn't include public counts of comments, likes or shares.
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