Snapchat seen overmatched in fight with Facebook

Social startup's new Stories feature mimics Facebook's popular News Feed

Social startup Snapchat may be batting out of its league if it plans to take on social behemoth Facebook.

Snapchat, a photo messaging app that pioneered self-destructing messages and became a teen phenom, announced on Thursday that it's updating the app with a new feature dubbed Stories that lets users share photos and videos for a day before they disappear.

The company released the updates for iOS- and Android-based devices.

With the new feature, called Stories, users can choose which photos and videos they want to add to that day's Story and to whom the package should be sent.

It's the first time the two-year-old company has veered away from its trademark of having content disappear in 10 seconds or less. By focusing on pictures and video that self-destruct in a matter of seconds, users have felt free to share images they wouldn't want to remain permanently on a friend's device.

The new Stories feature lets Snapchat users share the experiences of their days with friends a bit longer.

Analysts say the update gives Snapchat a very Facebook-like quality, comparing the Stories feature to Facebook's News Feed.

The popular Facebook feature lets users keep up to date on what friends are doing with their day.

The question for Snapchat is whether it has the muscle to worm in on some of Facebook's vast territory.

"Snapchat is a phenomenon with teenagers, who incessantly send short videos and pictures to their friends," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

"Now Snapchat is attempting to out-Facebook Facebook. This is a neat test, but Snapchat is getting into dangerous territory muddying their core value proposition, which is immediacy and privacy," Moorhead added.

"If your claim to fame is pictures that have very limited shelf life, you'd think extending that shelf life would be counter strategic," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group.

Thus, the company is in dangerous territory taking on Facebook, he said.

"[Snapchat is] a very specialized service going after a more comprehensive and powerful offering. That switches them from being unique to being overmatched. In their own area they were unmatched. In Facebook's they are insignificant," Enderle said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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