When it comes to Facebook’s product plans, originality is overrated

clone wars fb copycatsIs Facebook more of a monster than ever?

Last May, hot on the heels of Facebook’s Instagram acquisition, Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook’s investors that mobile was one of the social giant’s top priorities for 2012. Seven months later, Facebook seems to have done its level best to make that a reality, revamping its mobile client, improving its Messenger app, and releasing the likes of Camera and, more recently, Poke.

Yet something feels amiss.

Poke, for all the history “poking” has and the mild derision it has garnered as one of the gently creepy aspects of Facebook, is Facebook’s latest and greatest venture into mobile. All you need to do is write a short message, attach a photo or 10-second video, and send to any of your Friends. Your friends can then view your message, which will self-destruct after a few moments.

All of this sounds fun… save for the fact that Snapchat did it already. The recent sexting dustup notwithstanding, Snapchat saw almost overnight popularity — despite its being released last year — and was all the tech press could talk about for weeks. Facebook saw an opening and made an unabashed clone in twelve days, hoping to cash in on the frenzy. The ploy worked for maybe a second, but reality soon hit hard. Poke plummeted to the 51st spot on the App Store’s top free apps list while Snapchat still sits pretty at number 4. And it now has the ignominious distinction of somewhat indirectly causing Randi Zuckerberg’s privacy woes.

Of course, the copying doesn’t end there. Facebook confused just about everyone by releasing its own photo-sharing app little more than a month after buying Instagram. And while the app is good, it’s not Instagram good, and thus lacks Instagram’s popularity.

And remember when Facebook swallowed up the late Gowalla’s developers, allowing it to take Foursquare on in the growing check-in business?

And while Facebook Messenger appears poised to take on mobile messaging in a way that Apple’s iMessage and even RIM’s BBM simply haven’t scaled to accomplish, messaging is hardly a new paradigm, even if it’s one that desperately needs disruption.

What becomes clear when you start to unpack Facebook’s checkered mobile history is that it has, by and large, failed to innovate in a way that has changed or reinvented already embedded mobile communication. Instead, it has done everything in its power to either copy or absorb the efforts of smaller outfits.

For the tech world, Facebook is starting to resemble little more than a doppleganger or even John Carpenter’s The Thing, attacking its victims and swiftly replacing them, ever on the hunt for its next victim. And we all know how that turned out.

As a giant with aspirations for becoming the de facto internet for most users — be it on phones, tablets, or conventional computers — Facebook is already monstrous. But by assimilating the innovations of other companies, it becomes a monster to be vanquished by both its users and the companies it ravages. If the company wants to save itself from that fate, it better come up with something original. And soon.


5G is the swift kick VR and AR gaming needs to come to fruition

There's a lot of hype surrounding augmented reality and virtual reality, but is it really the next big thing? We take a look at where the new mediums stand, as well as how 5G is poised to help them break into the mainstream.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Social Media

Instagram test reveals direct messages may be coming to browsers

Instagram for the web has always been a minimalist affair compared to the feature-rich smartphone app, but in the last few years that's started to change. The latest news is that Instagram is considering adding direct messages.
Social Media

‘Instagram egg’ embarks on a new adventure as man behind it is unmasked

The Instagram egg made global headlines recently after it became the most-liked post on the photo-sharing app. The person behind the account has now been revealed, as has his reason for choosing an egg for the stunt.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings.