Photograph by Adam Berry — Getty Images
By Kia Kokalitcheva
August 20, 2016

Facebook is finally taking a different approach to winning over young users.

The social network on Friday introduced yet another app for sharing photos and videos intended to challenge its fast-growing rival Snapchat and its popularity with teens. The new app, Lifestage, is intended for teens for posting photos and videos, as well as to express their likes and dislikes, emotions, and friendships.

The app opens directly to a camera screen, a signaling its focus on photos, and lets users browse the profiles of their school classmates (it’s currently invite-only on iOS, and each school needs 20 users to become active).

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Michael Sayman, a 19-year-old app developer who was offered a job at Facebook after landing a meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the company’s annual conference in 2014, told media outlets that Lifestage’s design was inspired by old versions of Facebook itself. At its core, Facebook was, and still is, an online directory for users to look up others or check up on their friends.

“What if we were to grab what Facebook from 2004 was and bring it to 2016 and bring it into what we’ve been trying to understand with video and content creation,” Sayman told Mashable.

Up until now, Facebook’s attempts to clone Snapchat have been to largely recreate the same features and look of the app. It was as if teens would be won over by simply creating a silly-seeming photo and video app. Those efforts over the past few years—Poke, Slingshot, Riff—didn’t catch on.

But Sayman’s observation that the idea behind the original Facebook should be translated into today’s technology and how youth interact shows a departure in the company’s approach. Just like Snapchat capitalized on young users’ new desire for non-permanent communication and self-expression through disappearing photos and messages, Lifestage is an attempt to capitalize on one of its own main features: user profiles where they can post information about themselves and photos and videos.

Earlier this month, Facebook-owned Instagram, once the cool photo app for teens, went after Snapchat with the release of Stories, a feature that lets users share daily reels of photos and videos with their followers that disappear after 24 hours. Snapchat already had a similar feature of the same name. And like Lifestage’s approach, it figured out how to meld utility with Instagram’s current design to produce something that could appeal to users drawn to ephemeral messaging apps.

There’s of course no way of telling whether Lifestage will be successful—social apps are largely a crapshoot. But at least Facebook has begun to change how it thinks about creating an appealing and enduring photo and video-sharing app.

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