Zuck Is Finally Ready To Fight Snapchat

In the first earnings call since Evan Spiegel rejected Zuck’s $3 billion offer to buy Snapchat, the Facebook CEO sent a very clear signal to competitors.

“Our vision is to create a set of products that let our users share with any audience they want,” said Zuck. “Not everyone wants to share with all of their friends at once. A lot of the new growth we see is from giving people power to share with different, separate groups of people.”

Three products, in particular, help Facebook fight off Snapchat: Messenger, Instagram, and Groups.

Zuckerberg announced that Facebook Messenger, which was revamped in November to be much faster, has grown by 70 percent in the past three months. Meanwhile, Facebook Groups have grown to 500 million users, with Zuck calling them a “core product.”

And then there’s Instagram, Facebook’s golden ticket. The photo-sharing service introduced Instagram Direct in December to give photo-sharers control of the audience for any picture they’d like.

All of this, obviously, is a push against the market and mindshare controlled by Snapchat, which is growing at a rapid clip. Users send more than 400 million snaps per day on the service, which has raised more than $123 million in funding since launching in 2011.

The app lets users share disappearing photos with individual friends or multiple users. Not only does the content disappear (freeing them from any concern that Mom will see what was said on the internet), but it gives users total control over who sees what they share, on a case-by-case basis.

Instagram Direct tried to mimic this behavior, though it seemingly hasn’t gotten the same traction.

And even if growth isn’t a threat (yet), Snapchat’s stubborn CEO certainly is.


He’s the first young, driven wunderkind since Zuckerberg himself. Almost 24 and fresh out of Stanford, Spiegel even has his own frat-boy drama lawsuit on his hands, with a scorned founder suing Snapchat for a third of the business. If Zuck’s throne has a usurper, it could very well be Evan.

Snapchat is one of very few (successful) social apps that isn’t reliant on Facebook in any way. Snapchatters find their friends through the Contacts app in the phone. There is no Facebook Connect. No Facebook Friends. No sharing to Facebook. Inside Snapchat, there is no Facebook.

The shift has been a relatively slow one, but over the course of the past few years, Facebook has lost its swagger with teens and younger demographics. Even Obama knows it. No one going through puberty wants to share the internet with their parents. Snapchat, entirely independent of Facebook, has given teens a playground.

And Facebook has failed, thus far, to seal that leak.

By the time Snapchat caught Facebook’s attention, it was too late. The December 2012 launch of Facebook Poke (a shameless Snapchat clone) was a total flop.

And once Facebook was vulnerable, reportedly offering $3 billion for the service, Spiegel said no.

Today Zuck has responded, albeit somewhat subtly. The stats around Messenger alone show that Facebook is ready to fight for the kids, whether the social network needs them or not.

After all, 1.2 billion monthly active users certainly isn’t worrisome. Snapchat is still, very much, a David to Facebook’s Goliath.

Going forward, Zuck plans on separating Messenger and Groups even more from the central Facebook app.

“If you think about the overall space of sharing in communication, there isn’t just one thing that people are doing,” said Zuck. “People want to share any type of content with any audience they want. Facebook has always had a mission of helping people share with any audience, and historically that has always been through a single app.”

“Messenger used to feel like a feature of Facebook, but we’re making it more of a standalone app,” he added. “We’ve even taken it out of the main app, giving it room to breathe as its own experience. We’re now focused on making that really good and adding to it.”

In other words, “here’s Facebook minus your parents.”

What say you, Snapchat? It’s your move.

How will standalone apps impact Facebook’s future? Read our writer Josh Constine’s feature piece “Facebook’s Plot To Conquer Mobile: Shatter Itself Into Pieces“.]