Instagram, Snapchat, and the difference between $1 billion Facebook bucks vs simply being cloned
Facebook's new, Snapchat-like timed messaging (widely held to be sexting) app, Poke was coded in only 12 days, and part of that code was reportedly written by Facebook's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg himself. Why is Facekbook telling and/or leaking that backstory? Josh Constine of TechCrunch writes:
We heard Facebook made attempts to buy [Snapchat], but the team wanted to stay independent. That’s when Facebook and Zuckerberg went into hacker mode. With just a few weeks until Apple stopped accepting submissions of new apps before Christmas, it would take a sprint to get Poke built in time.
So a small squad including Facebook Director Of Product Blake Ross kicked development into high gear, Zuckerberg lent a hand with the programming, designers Mike Matas and Sharon Hwang created the icon, and Facebook just made the deadline and launched the Poke app this morning.
People often think they have an idea for the "next big app" and ask how to get it made without getting "ripped off". It's a cliche that ideas are a dime a dozen and implementation and execution are where the value resides. But that's never been true either. Whether it was Microsoft in the early days of the PC, or Zynga or Facebook now, anything bootstrapped that gets significant attention and momentum is destined to be bought or simply cloned.
As MG Siegler points out on parislemon:
I also can’t help but wonder if maybe this is a message from Facebook: don’t want to come work with us? Fine, we’ll clone your service in a couple weeks and ship it to a billion users.
The difference between being a $1 billion Instagram deal and Snapchat clone is likely how important your user base is and how hard they think it will be to co-opt it. Facebook Camera with filters wouldn't have done anything to stop or even slow Instagram in the vitally important, incredibly attractive area of online photo sharing (i.e storing). Poke will either do enough, or the capricious offshoot of the IM space isn't important enough, for Facebook to spend more money, or more than 12 weeks on it.
Oh, and that voice you hear say "POKE!" when a new one arrives? That's supposedly Zuckerberg's own as well.
How badly Poke hurts Snapchat remains to be seen, as does Poke's long-term importance to Facebook itself. Is it a fad-app whose lifespan mirrors its short development time, or is it core functionality that's here for the long haul? I guess we'll see if/when Poke secures a place on the Home screen next to Instagram when the Facebook phone finally launches...