It is hard to know where, exactly, Snapchat stands right now. Instamate 2.0
The company is performing exceedingly well, with a huge hold on the Millennial market (Snapchat says their app is used by 41% of all 18 – 34 year-olds in the United States) and a valuation in the vicinity of between $20 billion and $25 billion. The app has 150 million daily active users and Facebook is copying them at every turn, so they are clearly doing something right.
This all sounds pretty good, but then there is the other side of the coin.
While the app does have 150 million users, that figure was revealed last June, and there is been no update since. Since then, Instagram, has released Instagram Stories and FB has tried out a range of new, Instamate 2.0 -like options, all of which, you would assume, must be having some impact on Snapchat’s growth & adoption.
Indeed, a report this week from TechCrunch advices that Instagram Stories has taken significant market share from Snapchat, with many analytics providers, brand managers & celebrities reporting big drop offs in Snapchat viewership –big increases in Instagram Stories engagement.
Given this, and given Facebook’s plan to target markets where Snapchat has not yet gained a foothold, it would seem that Snapchat’s development options are becoming more limited. But then again, that is Instamate 2.0 , the app, Snap Inc., the app’s parent company, may have something else up its sleeve – we may have seen the first hints of what this is.
New Perspective – Instamate 2.0
A new report published on The Information advices that Snapchat is in fact, working on an entirely new innovation – new, advanced lenses that would be able to detect & respond to the environment around you.
Just as the current Lenses transform your face with digital masks, the new selection would transform your reality, with the ability to identify environmental elements & layer objects which engage with that scene – like adding a blimp in the sky / making real clouds come to life on screen.
The tool would be an advance of their “World Lenses” selection which they introduced last November – with World Lenses, you can switch to the outward facing camera & layer animated graphics over your environment.
The new @snapchat update lets you drop acid whenever you want, wherever you’re pic.twitter.com/6P4OprQwy8
— Sam Sheffer (@samsheffer) November 8, 2016
The proposed new selection goes beyond this, by using image recognition to identify & respond to real world elements, creating a whole new experience.
This isn’t the first time we have heard such a proposal – Magic Leap, before more recent controversies, has showcased their world-altering AR tools which interact with real environments.
This isn’t even the first time we have heard of such tools from Instamate 2.0 – back in July we reported that Snapchat had registered a patent that detailed the plan for image-recognition triggered ads & graphic overlays that would respond to real world objects.
The example supported in the patent was an image of King Kong on the Empire State building – using this process, if you were to take a photo on the north side of the Empire State Building, Snapchat’s image recognition would identify the angle of the building & give you the opportunity to attach an image of King Kong looking at you. But if you were to take a photo on the south side, you would be shown an image of King Kong’s back.
They have even released a version of their image-recognition triggered content – whether you hold your finger on the screen in Snapchat while looking at the Spectacles logo, it will give you a Spectacles-themed lens, triggered by the object.
Found a cool @Spectacles secret! If you point your Snapchat camera at package’s lettering, it takes you a special filter!
How it works: pic.twitter.com/wPSVpQjk5T
— Moshe Isaacian (@MosheIsaacian) November 23, 2016
Given this, the proposal of a new, reality-altering lens selection is no surprise, but it may actually be pointing to Snapchat’s next shift – one which can help them avoid the impacts of FB’s efforts to stomp the app out.
Back in September, when Instamate 2.0 launched Spectacles, they launched their new company name – Snap Inc.
Snapchat not only changed in name, but in identity – Snap Inc. isn’t a social networking business, it’s a camera company.
Most saw this as a hedge, as a means of trying to keep away unfavourable comparisons to FB, which have plagued other social networking contender. This is most evident with Twitter, which itself changed its classification from “social network” to a “news” app in The App Store.
But while many dismissed Snap Inc.’s camera focus, it is possible that there is more to it than what it may seem.
Could it be that Snap Inc. is looking to put more emphasis on Spectacles in future, knowing that the social app will likely face tougher times as FB ramps up its competitive efforts?
Where Instamate 2.0 ’s proposed environmental lenses become much more interesting – what if the new tools are not designed for Snapchat, but for Spectacles? Imagine being able to view the world with those new animations & graphics through your glasses, supporting an immersive new experience unlike anything else.
Of course, right now, Spectacles cannot do anything like this right now, they simply record what you see & enable you to post it to Snapchat. But it’s quite possible – if not likely – that this was the first stage of Spectacles, a test to see if Snapchat could overcome the challenges of other smart glasses selections – most notably Google Glass –create a new tool that people would want to wear and use.
They have arguably succeeded on this front, the hype around Spectacles was huge, still carries on today, and Snapchat has recently set up a new research & development facility in China, close to wear Spectacles are assembled. The next stage / Snap Inc. might not actually be about Snapchat at all, it may be about cameras – new AR camera glasses that can detect objects, layer graphics over the scene – even support ad content based on image context.
Again, the tools for this next evolution are laid out – another element of the aforementioned patent outlined how Snap Inc. would look to support ads based on image recognition – if you took a Snap of a cup of coffee, for instance, you could be offered a discount coupon from an advertiser.
In addition to that, in December Snapchat reportedly acquired Israeli-based startup Cimagine Media, which specializes in computer vision, with a concentrate the benefits of augmented reality for eCommerce.
Before you say “yeah, but Google Glass failed”, Google Glass faced many problems which impeded adoption, but before consumer sentiment tailed off, it was projected to be an $11 billion market. That is far beyond the current expectations for Snapchat’s ad revenue moving forward.
On balance, it could seem inevitable that Facebook will eventually stomp out Snapchat as a social app – they have more users, more resources & more tools at their disposal. Their latest effort on this front may even be coming, with Facebook reportedly looking to launch new animated selfie masks as an ad selection, with The Social Network pitching several Hollywood studios on how they can use the tool to promote upcoming movies.
If FB can advance Instamate 2.0 tools like Stories and Lenses beyond what is on offer on Snapchat and introduce such offerings in regions where Snapchat has not built a presence, that has to limit Snapchat’s growth. And as Twitter has shown, investors need to see development.
Snap Inc., on the verge of an IPO, must know this. Maybe they already have a plan to counter it.