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Can we stop with all the Snapchat clones?

Forget the Twitter-cloning Mastodon – and you probably will have by the time you read this – it’s the Snapchat clones that should be getting the social media headlines and backlash.

I get it. Snapchat is trendy. It’s popular with the right demographics. But it’s still tanking money and I would argue doesn’t do zeitgeist and influence in the way Twitter or even Facebook does. So maybe people can ease off all the clones?

Facebook is by far the guiltiest party when it comes to cloning Evan Spiegel’s company. Aside from trying to buy Snapchat (and the Korean equivalent), the world’s largest social media company has made nearly 20 attempts to copy the ephemeral photo app across FB, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, which has led to a weird convergence no one asked for.

 Instagram stories is reportedly seeing success and might even be bigger than SnapChat itself, so why not leave it at one focused play instead of having the same unasked for features across four apparently separate platforms?

But no such luck. At its F8 developer conference in April, FB launched AR Studio, a platform that allows developers to incorporate AR tech into their apps. Or just add Snapchat-like filters to photos using FB tech. Bringing AR to the masses, or a plan to get devs hooked to monetize later and kill Snapchat via an ecosystem play?

But it doesn’t stop just with Mark Zuckerberg & co. Microsoft debuted its own AI-infused Snapchat clone for iOS. The disgustingly-named Sprinkles offers “a camera with fun ideas” that scans pics to automatically add “witty captions” as well as the usual filters and stickers. It also includes that service that can guess your age built in. And then there’s Apple, which has just released Clips, a video-centric Snapchat clone.

That’s three companies – with enough money between them to buy all but the largest countries if they so wanted – making concerted efforts to copy a selfie app with some funky filters, a nice bit of 3D mapping, and some funky looking glasses that come out of funky vending machines.

Maybe it’s all just a test-bed for computer vision in order to enable that augmented glasses-based future everyone (including this writer) predicts we’ll eventually live in, and this is just to make a few bucks and get people interested in the meantime. Maybe it’s because I don’t get it. I’m not big on selfies. Even after reading Time’s insightful piece on how people use it to be themselves and be silly in a time when every other photo medium is staged and micro-managed to perfection, I was still thinking it all just sounds horribly unnecessary.

Am I wrong? Should every company be working on selfie filters, occasionally self-destructing messages, and oversized spy spectacles?

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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