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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

28 mins ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.