Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

In a few hours, Snap will finally be a publicly-traded company, and its founder will have accomplished a difficult feat: turn a silly app for teens to send disappearing photos into a veritable social media business. But the company's main foothold is in North America and Europe, while in Asia it faces stiff competition from Korean app Snow.

What is Snow? The app was built by Naver, a large Korean internet company whose Japanese arm operates the popular messaging app Line. The app was first released in Asia in September 2015.

Snow has been called a "Snapchat clone" because its premise is undeniably similar—disappearing messages, camera filters, and even a feature for sharing videos called Stories. Like Snapchat, Facebook attempted to acquire Snow, according to a report from TechCrunch last year (Snapchat famously turned down Facebook's $3 billion offer in 2013).

But it's also much more tailored to the Asian market, with filters that include bottles of soju, Korean pop stars, and fried chicken to appeal to its Korean users, and sumo wrestlers and sushi for its Japanese users, for example.

How big is it? As of December, Snow has been downloaded 100 million times, and has 40 to 50 million monthly active users, the company said earlier this year. It's been growing at a steady pace, hitting 80 million downloads in October, according to TechCrunch, up from only 30 million back in July, as the New York Times reported. Across the Apple App Store and Google Play Store (excluding China's), Snapchat has been downloaded 36 million times since January 2012 in Asia, while Snow has been downloaded 75 million times since September 2015 in the same region, according to data provided by SensorTower. With that said, this data doesn't include the hundreds of alternative Android app stores popular in China and iOS is not the dominant mobile operating system in Asia.

Snow has also made it clear that it won't be stopping with Asia—the app is available around the world and international growth is important to the company, as its CEO said in November. Snapchat may have more reason to worry.

The China advantage: Perhaps Snow's biggest upper hand over Snapchat is that it's officially available in China, where the latter has been blocked (though some are still finding ways to download it). China continues to be a large and growing market for internet services, but it's off limits for most Western companies, including Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Why it matters: Snap's highly anticipated IPO has given it a recent publicity boost, but now it will have to contend with the realities of being a public company, which includes high expectations of continued user growth. While Snow doesn't have the same name recognition outside of Asia, the company's ambitions suggest it it could quickly move in as a strong competitor to Snapchat, especially if its young user base decides to look for other options.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

2 hours ago - Health

Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot"

The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday that he "absolutely" will accept the offer from President-elect Joe Biden to serve as his chief medical adviser, telling NBC's "Today" that he said yes "right on the spot."

Why it matters: President Trump had a contentious relationship with Fauci, who has been forced during the pandemic to correct many of the president's false claims about the coronavirus. Biden, meanwhile, has emphasized the importance of "listening to the scientists" throughout his campaign and transition.