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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.

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - Technology

Big Tech at war over privacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The world's biggest tech firms are at each other's throats over how to manage data privacy, an issue that will shape the internet economy for years to come.

Why it matters: Absent any U.S. government intervention, tech companies are introducing rules that favor their own ideals and business models, sometimes at their peers' expense.

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

"Believe your eyes": Prosecutors make closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

55 mins ago - Technology

Apple to let Parler back onto App Store

Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Apple will let Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives, back onto the App Store after Parler made attempts to improve its speech detection and moderation.

What's happening: Parler is getting access to Apple's massive App Store again after being suspended for inadequate hate speech policies following the January 6 Capitol riot, according to a letter Apple sent to Congress Monday.