If social media were a game of Monopoly, Facebook would be that one competitive, bordering on obnoxious friend who plays as if the entirety of their self-worth was solely dependent on the game’s outcome. However, despite how excessively competitive Facebook is, there is a reluctant consensus that, yes, Facebook is at the top of its game in terms of social media outreach — and it seems determined to stay there. With over 1.15 billion active daily users worldwide, Facebook is the most popular social media platform existing today. However, despite these numbers, newer social media platforms, notably Snapchat and Instagram, have rapidly ascended in popularity, threatening the security of Facebook’s comfortable #1 spot.
As Facebook is a multibillion dollar company, it did what any egregiously wealthy company would do — it threw massive amounts of money at the problem. In 2012, Facebook famously acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, and offered Snapchat $3 billion, only for CEO Evan Spiegel to turn it down. Since then, Facebook has tried to buy the Asian Snapchat-clone Snow, introduced the Snapchat-clone Flash in a Brazilian campaign focused on Androids, and at the same time, has introduced a wealth of interactive features to its Messenger app. Indeed, Facebook seems to be grabbing at every possible media venture and hoping it sticks — recently, it implemented the options of in-app games, monetary transactions, live-streaming, and much more, capitalizing on its users’ preexisting, far-reaching social capital to create an incredibly efficient all-in-one app. As Facebook Messenger allows users to contact “friends” whose contact information they may not possess otherwise, Facebook’s outrageous success gives it leeway in assuming its user’s participation in its future business ventures, which has since proven to be mostly successful.
Interestingly enough, Facebook seems particularly fixated on mimicking Snapchat’s interface — Snapchat originally pioneered its market of ephemeral, real-time media, and Facebook seems desperate to recreate its success. (In fact, it has already done so,15 times, to be exact.) Instagram and Facebook-owned WhatsApp have both introduced a “Story” function. While Instagram stories have so far been successful, with 150 million active daily users, Snapchat remains undeterred, its popularity constant. In retaliation, Facebook has been rolling out beta versions of “Messenger Days”, or “Shared Days”, in areas where Snapchat is unpopular. It is no secret that Snapchat hasn’t gained as much traction in Central Europe, and Facebook seems to be taking full advantage of this fact.
Messenger Days first appeared in Poland, (where Snapchat isn’t nearly as popular) as early as September 2016, and later extended this feature to Australia in October 2016. There haven’t been many reports on whether the feature has been successful; however, when I came to Prague a month ago to study abroad, to my surprise, I found this handy new feature in my Messenger app. In January 2017, it extended its outreach to Ireland, and as of February 2017, my peers in the Czech Republic all seem to have the “My Stories” option in their app. Though no one we’ve seen has actually used it, this could be due to our lack of a local Czech audience. After confirming with friends back home of its nonexistence in the United States, it seems as if Messenger Days is unavailable in areas where Snapchat is incredibly successful. This seems to be a clever marketing ploy on Facebook’s part, and Messenger’s soaring popularity will lure in users in areas such as the Czech Republic. Those who aren’t inclined to download Snapchat may venture into this brand of ephemeral media out of curiosity, and in the process, get hooked.
While Messenger Days lacks Snapchat’s crown jewel of Augmented Reality lenses, it offers many customizable text options and decorative graphics, as well as the efficient seductiveness of the ultimate all-in-one app. The ease of connecting with a vast, preexisting network of friends, as opposed to starting over in a new app, may appeal to many; on the flipside, those who seek a more intimate audience may feel uncomfortable baring themselves to such a wide audience. In this instance, the potential success (or failure) of Messenger Days seems to hinge on whether the individual user wishes to expand their social capital and whether it becomes a new form of “normal” — the more other users embrace it as a format, the more popular it will be. Of course, it may just be another way for users to casually “bridge”, rather than “bond”, as interpersonal relationships are harder to maintain on such a large scale. The overabundance of media-sharing platforms truly makes privacy a conscious choice, and new features such as Messenger Days only seem to reaffirm this fact.
There doesn’t seem to be any concrete plans regarding the wide expansion of Messenger Days, and there is already a limited amount of internet articles regarding this new feature due to its unavailability to US audiences. The feature may peter out quietly, many unaware of its existence, or it may prove itself to be a worthy competitor to Instagram and Snapchat stories; only time will tell. In the end, the tentative unveiling of an obvious mimicry of Snapchat seems to be slightly political in nature — Snapchat is set to go public soon, and Facebook doesn’t seem too delighted about it.
Comic courtesy of DPFOC.com