Facebook and Instagram are having a 'midlife crisis': Here are the ways Meta's companies have borrowed from competitors over the years

·3 min read
Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta seem to be undergoing an identity crisis.

  • The company has recently tested new features that seem to copy not only TikTok but also BeReal and Twitch.

  • Meta has a history of borrowing features from the competition. Check out some recent examples.

Meta is having a "midlife crisis," a noted technology analyst told Insider, suggesting that the Mark Zuckerberg-run parent of Facebook and Instagram could increasingly turn to an old playbook when competing with younger upstarts: copying them.

Facebook is still the largest social media site in the world, but recent signs point to slowing user growth. The company's throne is under threat by TikTok and other social media apps popular with younger users.

When Zuckerberg and Co. have faced competition in the past, they've employed the principle of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" — oftentimes trying to replicate competitors' popular features into Meta's own apps.

"The way that they've continued to win Monopoly games on a daily basis has been: Any competitor that comes along ...  Meta just has similar features and ultimately disrupts that competitor to a point that they go into oblivion," Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, contends.

The practice appears to be ongoing: Instagram has announced a number of changes lately that bear a striking resemblance to TikTok's format, including a further focus on video Reels content and AI-powered recommendations. (Instagram pulled back on a more radical overhaul earlier this month after complaints from high-profile users including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner.)

But TikTok is not the only social media app from which Instagram has borrowed. Last month, the app debuted a dual-camera feature that looks like a near-clone of French social media app BeReal, which is currently the top free app in Apple's app store, followed by TikTok and Google in third.

Meta is testing out a standalone app called Super that appears to draw inspiration from Twitch, the live-streaming platform owned by Amazon, Insider previously reported.

Whether Meta "wins against TikTok or not" by investing in Reels and AI, its return on investments in competing technology will continue to be attacked by competitors "until one day Meta won't win," Laura Needham, an analyst at Needham with a negative outlook for the company, recently told clients.

Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri discussed the backlash to Instagram's TikTok-like changes with Casey Newton's Platformer two weeks ago, saying, "I'm glad we took a risk — if we're not failing every once in a while, we're not thinking big enough or bold enough."

Here are some other examples of features Meta has introduced over the years that are strikingly similar to other popular social apps.

2015: Facebook introduces its "On This Day" feature, similar to a popular app at the time, Timehop. The feature reminds users of content posted in the past.

Facebooks' "On This Day" feature
Facebook's "On This Day" featureMeta

2016: Instagram introduces "stories" that disappear after 24 hours, nearly identical to Snapchat's stories.

Instagram unveils its stories feature
Instagram unveils its stories featureMeta

2016: Facebook unveils Workplace, with many comparing it to Slack. The platform connects coworkers and allows them to chat or video call.

Workplace by Meta
Workplace by Meta, formerly Workplace by FacebookMeta

2019: Facebook Dating arrives in the US, rivaling dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Hinge.

Facebook Dating
Facebook DatingMeta

2020: Facebook's Messenger Rooms is introduced at the height of the pandemic after Zoom took off in popularity. Rooms is a video chat feature that can hold up to 50 users with no time limit.

Facebook Rooms
Facebook RoomsMeta

2020: Instagram introduces Reels, which are short-form videos that look strikingly similar to the ultra-popular app, TikTok.

Instagram Reels
Instagram ReelsMeta

2022: Instagram introduces a dual camera mode that activates both the back and front camera of a phone, nearly identical to the French social media app BeReal.

Instagram "Dual" camera mode
Instagram "Dual" camera modeMeta

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