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Facebook copied Snapchat a fourth time, and now all its apps look the same

Facebook doesn’t seem concerned with giving each of its core services a unique identity.

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Facebook is copying Snapchat again: Today it launched Stories, the 24-hour photo and video montages that ultimately disappear, inside of its core Facebook app.

This is the fourth time Facebook has cloned the key Snapchat feature in the past nine months; the social giant has already copied it into Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

On the surface, Facebook’s move simply looks like a unabashed defense strategy against Snapchat, the company’s most obvious threat since 2011, when Google tried to dive into social with a service that turned out to be much more like a bellyflop.

But Facebook’s willingness to prominently place the exact same feature inside all of its apps doesn’t just speak to the company’s fear of competitors — it also shows that Facebook isn’t concerned with giving each of its core services a unique identity.

And that should be concerning to you, assuming that you don’t need or want four different versions of Facebook on your phone.

Messenger, Facebook and Instagram all have Stories.

Yes, this is just one feature, but we’ve already seen that Facebook is willing to double-dip on features and put them inside multiple apps.

Instagram is virtually Facebook 2.0, with live video, brand accounts, private messaging and lots and lots of video content, all features that had previously worked on Facebook. Messenger, too, is testing in-app ads and games, and wants you connecting with brands and wishing your friends a happy birthday.

WhatsApp has been the least Facebook-y app of them all, but it feels like those days are coming to an end, especially given Facebook’s strategy around Stories.

There’s a reason the company is doing this: Its core service, Facebook, works really well. It makes a ton of money, and billions of people use it. Smart businesspeople usually take what works and apply it in other areas, and that’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg is doing.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it better for you, the loyal Facebook user. You don’t need Stories in four apps (five if you already use Snapchat). You don’t need to connect with your favorite clothing brand in four apps, either, and you aren’t going to broadcast live video in more than one place at a time. (Facebook’s binge has even led to a Twitter meme, where people are grafting the Stories interface absurdly onto apps like Microsoft Excel.)

You don’t need more Facebook outside of Facebook. But that’s what the company wants to give you.

Perhaps this is just a blip, a panic move to fend off Snapchat at the expense of overdoing Stories, a product that used to feel unique and special. Or perhaps Facebook understands that some users only use one of its apps, not all four, and it needs features to exist across the spectrum in order to reach everyone.

But, either way, Facebook has shown that it likes to stick with what works — and what works is copying competitors, and sometimes copying itself.

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