Remember last week? You know, the week when Facebook indulged in yet another act of wanton xeroxing and released Poke to compete with the red-hot insta-communication app, Snapchat. Well, a week later, the world has returned to normal. Snapchat, the insta-sharing app is once again among the most popular apps — at third place.
And Poke… Well, it is languishing at the 34th spot on the top free apps list, way behind Instagram, Messenger and the official Facebook apps. It is yet another example of why just because you can copy something it doesn’t mean it will become successful, even if you are Facebook who is doing the copying. It is not clear what kind of usage the app is getting, but I am pretty sure Facebook will announce any day some metrics that don’t quite measure anything.
This quick decline in downloads raises some questions about Facebook’s ability to be kingmaker. It may have helped Zynga when social games and Facebook’s platform were brand new phenomena. Remember how their frictionless sharing was going to change everything, especially for media companies? Well, it didn’t change a lick. Washington Post’s Facebook socialreader is now on the open web. Guardian is no longer interested in wasting its resources on the Facebook reader. Frictionless sharing might have made some video sharing services hot for a day, but the reality has been much harsher for them.
In April, The Washington Post’s Social Reader had 12 million monthly active users. Now, it has about 600,000 according to AppData, a decline of 95 percent. The Guardian had nearly 6 million monthly active users of its Facebook app in April. Now it has about 2.5 million, a decline of about 75 percent. Most Facebook users didn’t want this, for all the reasons we’ve discussed before — thoughtless sharing means little to your friends, can lead to faulty assumptions about why you read something and have a chilling effect on what you choose to read.
Actually, last week when everyone was getting excited and proclaiming the end of Snapchat, I was wondering to myself: How is that Facebook, which has some of the smartest folks in the room, can’t really invent any new single online behavior that would keep people addicted to Facebook?
Why does it have to look at others to come up with new user behaviors and new features? For instance, checkins came from Foursquare, while the short status updates were a direct response to Twitter. Facebook Answers were nothing but a variation on Quora’s offering. Poke is yet another example.
Sooner or later, Facebook and its think tank has to confront the harsh reality — if it needs to stay relevant and stay ahead of the curve, it needs to invent and reinvent. Doing otherwise could be fatal.
Updated: I have updated the post to reflect the change from SnapChat to Snapchat.