Monday, February 24, 2014

Snapchat refuses Facebook, but WhatsApp can't resist

As you know, I love contrast and contradiction.  Usually, there is some fundamental cognitive process that makes us self-contradictory that I enjoy rambling about.  But today, I have one for all of the entrepreneur, venture capitalist, Internet design friends.

My good friend Charles Mauro, in his 2013 Winner and Losers, notes that Snapchat and Facebook have fundamentally incompatible design models.  Snapchat is all about the human attraction to scarcity.  Even though there are plenty of apps that can save Snapchat messages, the feeling you get when you use it is that the message is a fleeting wisp and you have to grab it before it fades away. Facebook, on the other hand, is monetizing us to death with cramming the screen with more stuff at a higher density.

On the other hand, this weekend's Observations blog from Scientific American notes that WhatsApp's company philosophy is "No ads, no games, no gimmicks."  The post cites several interviews from both companies trying to justify the contradiction.  Facebook will leave WhatsApp alone to be minimalist (of course, until they don't). 

Same contradictory design models, but in one case SnapChat held out.  In the other $19 billion was just too much money to turn down. I wonder if these were good business decisions or if they are both a lot of self-delusion.  Perhaps Snapchat is deluding itself that it can make more than they were offered on their own. Perhaps WhatsApp is deluding themselves that Facebook really will leave their design alone. 

Only time will tell.