Sunday 16 December 2018

'I'm not bothered about Facebook copying us,' says Snapchat boss

Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel
Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel

Olivia Zaleski and Sarah Frier

Snap chief Evan Spiegel launched a stinging critique of Facebook, dismissing both its appeal and its successful attempts to copy Snapchat's most popular features.

Spiegel aimed a series of barbs against his larger adversary at the annual Code Conference in California - moments before Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg took the stage. Spiegel, a co-founder of the Snapchat application for sending ephemeral messages and videos, made the case for his company's longevity.

Snap "has a mission that runs counter to traditional social media," he told the conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Facebook's copycatting "bothers my wife more than it bothers me".

Snap invented Snapchat "stories," through which people post videos of what happens during their day, as it happens. Those videos last for 24 hours. In response, Facebook has built a similar product for all of its applications from Instagram to WhatsApp, some of which now have far more users than Snap does. Analysts have pointed to Facebook's success as a potential hindrance to Snap's growth - mostly because people won't see the need to sign up for Snapchat if they can do the same thing somewhere else.

"At Snapchat it's all about building deeper relationships with the people that you're close to," he said. At Facebook, "they are having trouble changing the DNA of their company, which is all about people competing with each other for attention."

The CEO implied that the Facebook copycatting was the least of his worries. Since taking his company public in March of last year, Spiegel has endured frequent executive turnover, issues with employee morale and a backlash from a redesign of its core application, which he says was unexpectedly disruptive.

"If you can create something that is so beautiful and simple that the only thing other people can do is copy it exactly, that is the most fantastic feeling," he said.

"It is the most fantastic thing in the entire world."

Meanwhile, Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has said that Facebook can acquire other large companies without running afoul of antitrust enforcers.

"It really depends what it is," she said at Recode's Code Conference. "If it was in something that wasn't core to what we were doing and a new area, like Oculus was, I think it would probably be allowed."

She gave no indication that a deal was forthcoming.

Facebook, one of the largest corporations by market capitalisation, has grown in part through acquisitions. In 2014 it bought WhatsApp for $22bn (€18.9bn) and Oculus for $3bn, but has not made a similar purchase since. It bought Instagram for $1bn in 2012.

Sandberg also said that Facebook should not be broken up. (Bloomberg)

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