Facebook’s Flash photo-sharing app eyes emerging markets as a Snapchat clone

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If you can’t beat them, copy them. At least that is the way it seems to work in the technology industry. Facebook, having failed to buy out photo-messaging app Snapchat for several billion dollars a few years ago, has repeatedly tried to create similar apps to gain market share. While it failed before, Facebook’s newest attempt targets emerging markets and hopes to sell them on low bandwidth usage.

Snapchat is one of the real outliers in the tech industry. Among giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, it has a supremely popular service worth billions — yet it has not sold out to any of the bigger boys. It resisted that temptation early on its life and that is paying dividends now, but it means the likes of Facebook have had to resort to other strategies than takeovers to stay in the game.

It tried to release competitive apps twice so far: Poke and Slingshot, both of which failed to gain much traction and have since been shuttered. However, now it looks like Facebook has a new ace up its sleeve: targeting markets with poor internet access.

The new app is called Flash and while built to look and act much like Snapchat — complete with filters, masks, and dog ears — Facebook does not tout much of that. Instead, its big marketing effort is behind the app’s size: a paltry 25MB. In comparison, Snapchat is closer to 75MB.

While this is not something western markets may be too concerned with, in territories with less developed internet and with harsher bandwidth restrictions, it could be a major component.

Facebook launched Flash in Brazil and plans to push it into other developing markets as well — though it is being coy about which ones. As Recode points out, this could be a valid strategy, as getting in there before Snapchat has gained a firm hold may be Facebook’s only way of taking on the photo-sharing giant.

Flash is an interesting name choice, though. Especially when the world is turning its back on the Flash Player.

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