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Instagram’s strategy of stealing Snapchat features is paying off beautifully

Published Apr 26th, 2017 10:11PM EDT
Instagram vs Snapchat
Image: Shutterstock

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For as much as some pundits like to believe that Snapchat poses a serious threat to Instagram, the popular photo-sharing site owned by Facebook is as popular as ever. Not only has Instagram seen its user base grow considerably over the past few years, the cumulative number of Instagram users continues to accelerate with each passing year.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom recently revealed that Instagram now boasts more than 700 million users, according to a new report from The New York Times. Of that subset, an estimated 400 million users check the website or the app on a daily basis. Interestingly enough, approximately 560 million of Instagram’s total user base now resides outside of the United States, a data point which speaks to the site’s broad appeal across the globe. As a quick point of comparison, Snapchat currently boasts upwards of 160 million daily users.

To help illustrate Instagram’s tremendous growth over the past few years, consider this: From June 2016 through December of 2016, Instagram’s user base increased from 500 million to 600 million. And showing no signs of slowing down, Instagram needed just four months to make the jump from 600 to 700 million users, representing the site’s most impressive growth rate in its relatively short-lived history.

So while some analysts and pundits may be quick to call out Instagram and Facebook for aping any number of popular Snapchat features, users seemingly couldn’t care less.

But last year, you might have said there was a question whether a picture-based service like Instagram could have reached similar scale — whether it was universal enough, whether there were enough people whose phones could handle it, whether it could survive greater competition from newer photo networks like Snapchat. Maybe those problems or others will rear up in the future, and growth could yet stall. But for now, Instagram seems to have overcome any perceived hurdles. It seems to have reached escape velocity.

As to Instagram’s shameless copying of Snapchat features, Systrom doesn’t think much of it, likening Snapchat’s features to a new “digital format” as opposed to a true innovation.

“I don’t know much about the history of cars, but let’s say the Model T was the first car,” Systrom explained to the Times. “So what do you think the first car company other than Ford was thinking? Are we copying Ford, or is this a new mode of transportation that everyone is going to have different takes on?”

User metrics aside, there’s no denying that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram was a stroke of genius from a business perspective. Not too long ago, Credit Suisse analysts opined that Instagram towards the end of 2016 had contributed $3.2 billion in revenue to Facebook, an impressive figure given that Facebook acquired the app for $1 billion just a few years earlier.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.