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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...

Source: TechCrunch

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Well just like Facebook copy or steal whatever you can
  • "We (Apple) have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." - Steve Jobs
  • Steve would never have cloned Snapchat.
    See what I did there?
  • Anyone here using that "poke" app? What's the point? You can poke a friend on the web with Facebook. You can poke via the mobile Facebook app already.
  • The app isn't about "poking" in the original Facebook sense. It is to send pictures or messages with a timed delete. For example, you're a studyly man who wants to sext me a dicture, well, you send it via Poke and you can set it to delete and not be view-able after say, 5 seconds.
  • I love how every time I read iMore's coverage of Poke and its "sexting" capability I get Googe Adsense ads for 'Is He Cheating On You?"
  • One interesting side-effect of being cloned is the publicity you get. I hadn't heard of Snapchat until today, for example. You may have a great idea, but one no one can see what it is until they try it (I have one app like that I designed, for example). If nothing, being able to say "it's like poke, but better because) may actually be useful for Snapchat (assuming they have some USPs, of course.) Once the cloning company gets as large as Facebook or Zynga, simply "not being them" may be enough. Peter
  • I think Facebook's biggest oversight is the fact that people have associated the word "poke" with the action on Facebook for so long--and that this app does something other than what we think "poke" means. Without articles like this explaining what Poke is, most would assume it's an app made to easily poke, without having to open the Facebook app, kind of like what they did with messaging. They could have thought of a better title for the app. To many, poke will be an app they scroll right by because they will assume it is a "poking" app. They could have named it InstaPoke...Instagram always seems to put something out for just a few seconds.