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What’s in a Log-In? Social Platform Wars 2018

Photo of Zach Fuller
by Zach Fuller

Snap Inc has launched an alternative to the ubiquitous ‘log-in with Facebook’ offer, which commands the paucity of visual real estate available on app screens. This follows Snap’s recent announcement of development tools designed to open up the app to anyone wishing to build features, much in the same way its tech rivals have done in the past. What will really have tech commentators intrigued however, is how this can help the company transcend its position as a direct competitor to Facebook.

Having almost missed the boat on apps, Facebook’s pivot towards the app economy, both through its own app and the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, were its first real masterstroke. The second was positioning itself as a digital passport, approaching other companies and suggesting that since it already had the very users they were targeting, they would be better off allowing them to remove the friction of sign-ups by going directly through Facebook.

If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Facebook has regularly applied a bait and switch manoeuvre with its partners. It encouraged brands to build their following on Facebook pages and reach customers for free, until one day turning around and saying to brands that they must pay for the privilege. Pre the cause célèbre around fake news, Facebook also launched its instant articles feature, where news outlets were sold on the idea that they would gain larger audiences if those who were already discovering their content on Facebook were simply able to read news directly on the platform, rather than go to external sites. The news outlets lost substantial amounts of their traffic almost overnight and thus were pushed towards brand partnerships and native advertising within the articles themselves. Snap’s latest move takes place at an opportune moment for smaller players to hit Facebook where the media believe it hurts. Nearly every news outlet has published an article around where Facebook is using

In spite of Spiegel’s easy demeanour in a recent recode interview (where he couldn’t resist taking a jibe at Facebook copying his app’s features – stating he hoped they would copy Snap’s less intrusive data practices), Snap remains in a dicey position. Along with Uber, WhatsApp and Airbnb it was one of Web 2.0’s last golden children (no new app has arguably broken through on a truly global scale since 2013), yet since its IPO earlier this year it has endured near unanimous criticism for its slowed growth and inability to compete around its competitors.

MIDiA’s bet is that Snap will ultimately be acquired by either a large tech player or major telco as a distressed asset, either when the market as a whole runs into issues or its daily active user (DAU) base begins to slide, thus impacting its stock price. For all of the negative publicity it has endured, it still hosts more 160 million DAUs in what is soon to be one of the most financially influential demographics in the US and UK.

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