If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Facebook likes to flatter Snapchat so much the two companies should just drop the charade and get hitched down at City Hall in front of a justice of the peace and whoever they can find at the bus station to act as a witness.
Of course, Facebook famously tried to arrange a marriage with Snapchat in 2013, but the smaller company rebuffed its advances. And now, Snap has grown into a massive competitor, with a market valuation of close to $28 billion following its initial public offering.
Facebook, meanwhile, has continued adding new features that either imitate or flat out duplicate popular features on Snapchat. This morning, it ramped that flattery up even further, with the addition of a camera function with customized filters and the launch of Facebook Stories.
The camera interface, with a button that lets users add animal faces or animations to their photos and videos, is almost identical to Snapchat’s interface. And the new Facebook Stories feature—a way of collecting and sharing photos and video and sharing them with specific friends or on the timeline—is almost identical in both function and name to Snapchat’s version.
Facebook has a long history of trying to duplicate Snapchat’s features, and most of those efforts have been forgettable. But Instagram’s launch of a similar Stories function recently appears to have eaten into Snapchat’s market share, according to some reports.
Snapchat has clearly found a niche with younger users, but Facebook has almost unlimited resources and a dedicated user base of more than 1.5 billion. If the ability to add funny filters to a video or photo is what Snapchat was hoping would be its unique offering for the consumer marketplace, it might have another think coming.
BITS AND BYTES
Elon Musk’s latest venture merges man and machine. The billionaire tech entrepreneur—who has expressed his uneasiness over artificial intelligence—is apparently behind an early-stage medical research startup called Neuralink. The venture is working on “neural lace” technology that would interface humans brains with computers using tiny, implantable electrodes. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
Amazon is delaying its convenience-store-of-the-future technology. The e-commerce giant’s concept store in Seattle does away with cashiers and uses cameras, sensors, and sophisticated data analytics software to watch what customers select and charge them when they leave. Amazon hoped to begin testing its idea more broadly at the end of this month, but glitches have prompted it to postpone that plan. (Wall Street Journal)
Google could lose $750 million this year over the YouTube ad boycott. Big companies like AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo have halted advertising campaigns on the video-sharing site over fears that tech giant isn’t policing objectionable content quickly or closely enough. The negative impact could be up to 7.5% of YouTube’s revenue, according to analysts at brokerage firm Nomura Instinet. (Fortune)
Uber’s self-driving cars are back on the road. After a brief pause in tests prompted by a serious accident last Friday, the ride-sharing company resumed its pilot in San Francisco. As of last night, the program was still on hold in Arizona, where the mishap occurred. (Reuters)
Facebook grabs former Apple exec to manage virtual reality hardware. Michael Hillman, a 15-year Apple veteran who helped manage big hardware projects like its iMac personal computers, was tapped to lead strategy for the various Oculus products such as the Rift headset. He most recently was at a robotics startup. (Fortune)
Square debuts in the U.K. Britain marks the fifth country where the mobile payments service is available, following the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia. (Fortune)
Get ready to pay more for your next iPhone or Galaxy smartphone. Both Apple and Samsung are considering higher price points for models due later this year, as the market matures, high-end features proliferate, and the companies seek to maximize revenue from every customer. (Fortune)
Brian Chesky on disruption, leadership, and Airbnb’s future. It’s been a newsy few weeks for Airbnb: the “home-sharing” company announced a plan to grow its business in China under a new name; closed another round of $1 billion in equity funding; and CEO Brian Chesky—who last week joined Fortune’s list of the World’s Greatest Leaders at No. 19—announced he was adding the role of Head of Community to his title.
In mid-March, as part of a world tour to promote the company’s new menu of “experiences,” Chesky stopped in New York City for a sit-down interview in front of the Economic Club of New York, the 110-year-old organization whose membership spans the top leaders from across the business world. Here’s an edited version of his conversation with Fortune assistant managing editor Leigh Gallagher.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Google Fiber Is Still Expanding, But More Slowly Than Ever, by Aaron Pressman
Here’s a Vision for How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Trucking, by Jonathan Vanian
Microsoft Makes Skype for Business More Businesslike, by Barb Darrow
Apple Rumor Roundup: Read All the Speculation Here, by Don Reisinger
Google’s Waymo Is Testing Self-Driving Minivans in the Snow, by Kirsten Korosec
The Latest Nokia Phones Will Be Sold in the U.S., by Aaron Pressman
ONE MORE THING
Alexa, please book a conference room. Slowly but surely, business applications are emerging for Amazon’s Echo automation device. This one, from Teem, uses the voice-controlled virtual assistant to interact with meeting and calendar software such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. (Fortune)