They say that all is fair in love and war, but what about social media app battles? Recent developments suggest that nobody is above copying other platforms when it comes to app feature development.

Source: Giphy

“Popular Photos” feature on Facebook

Facebook has been testing a “popular photos” feature that is essentially a copycat of Instagram both in aesthetic and functionality. According to TechCrunch, it “affixes an endless scroll of algorithmically selected pics from friends beneath the full-screen view of a photo opened from the News Feed.”

Source: TechCrunch

How exactly does it work? TechCrunch says:

When users discover a photo in the News Feed or a profile, they can tap on it to see it full-screen on a black theater-view background. Typically, if users swipe or scroll on that photo, they’re just booted back out to where they came from. But with the Popular Photos feature, Facebook splays out more images for users to scroll through after the original.

By scrolling down past the Popular Photos title, they’ll see additional pics and a “See More Photos” label beckoning them to keep whipping through more public and friends-only images shared by friends and who they follow. Like on Instagram but unlike the News Feed, Facebook truncates the captions of Popular Photos after only around 65 characters so the stream doesn’t look overwhelmingly wordy. The black backgrounds give a more cinematic feel to the Popular Photos, putting emphasis on the imagery.

Instagram’s “Reel” deal

Facebook isn’t the only one creating copycat features; Instagram is doing it too. The popular photo-sharing app has been testing a new “Reels” feature which is a shameless imitation of TikTok. Robby Stein, director of product management at Instagram, even admitted to TechCrunch, “I think Musically before TikTok, and TikTok deserve a ton of credit for popularizing this format.”

According to Social Media Today:

Reels will enable users to create short videos which can be shared and remixed – just like TikTok. Those videos can include music, utilizing Facebook’s expanding music library, while Reels also includes a range of creative editing options, like variable playback speed and ‘ghosting’ which enables users to create more seamless scene transitions. 

To see how it works, watch the informative video from TechCrunch below:

The imitation game

The real question is: will this imitation game prove effective as a competitive strategy? Previously, “stories” were a feature exclusive to Snapchat – until Instagram and Facebook started to copy the feature in 2016 and 2017, respectively. And that imitation significantly stunted Snapchat’s growth for a time – something which has only recently turned around. But for younger generations, Facebook stories are still significantly underused in comparison to stories on Snapchat and Instagram – with Snapchat being significantly more popular than its competitors for stories among Gen Z users, and slightly more popular with millennial users. Will Instagram’s “Reels” feature prove just as detrimental to TikTok, and will Facebook’s “Popular Photos” hurt Instagram? Or are they too late to the party? Only time will tell.