Every member of the Facebook family of apps is pushing to bring copies of Snapchat’s best features to international audiences before Snapchat blows up abroad. There was the Facebook Camera Feed, Instagram Stories and Messenger Day — and now WhatsApp is cloning Snapchat’s creative tools.
Now you’ll be able to add overlaid text with multiple colors and fonts, drawings and emojis to photos and videos you shoot or upload with WhatsApp. These allow for better visual communication, where you can add captions, highlight certain things, jazz up scenes with silly doodles or augment them with emoji. Snapchat popularized this style of chat, which can feel more fun, inspired and vivid than messaging with just text or unadorned images.
WhatsApp has also grabbed Snapchat’s front-facing flash feature for illuminating your face by blinking your screen white, which lets you take low-light selfies. Meanwhile, you can zoom in before taking a photo or while shooting a video by dragging a single finger up and down the screen, which allows one-handed zooming.
In the U.S., this move might come off as blatant stealing of features that have become synonymous with Snapchat. Snapchat has 150 million daily users, with 60 million of them in the U.S. and Canada.
But WhatsApp has more than 1 billion monthly users scattered all over the developing markets of the world. Many of those countries don’t see much Snapchat adoption, so these people might not associate these creative tools with Snapchat. Instead, they might simply see this update as a big improvement to WhatsApp.
The international messaging juggernaut doesn’t have all the nifty features of Snapchat, like animated selfie lenses, geofilters or augmented reality 3D stickers. But if it can offer decent creative tools for visual communication, WhatsApp’s users might have less reason to stray to Snapchat if the ephemeral app eventually becomes popular in their area.
Good-enough features plus being the first app to offer them at scale in a market could succeed better than having the best features but showing up late.