Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

ShatChat

MG Siegler on Facebook’s now-pathological need to copy Snapchat in every app they own:

The ‘Story’ format makes sense in Instagram. From the get-go, it was a visual feed of information. While it was definitely aggressive to put the ‘Stories’ feature front-and-center at the top of every users’ feed, it proved to be a smart move. Not only did it spur usage, if people didn’t want to use the funtionality, they just kept scrolling on down the feed, just as they had always done.

The um, story, is completely different in Messenger. Here, people have their list of contacts and/or groups that they chat with. The most recent conversations — likely the most important — are at the top of that feed. But if you’re anything like me, you’re often scrolling down a bit because you have many regular conversations. And so this screen real estate is insanely valuable. And Messenger puked up this new ‘Day’ nonsense all over it.

Yes, people share photos on Messenger. Undoubtedly a ton. That’s maybe how you try to justify this move to yourself if you’re Facebook. But Messenger is fundamentally about chatting; it’s a utility. Photos may be additive, but they’re not core. You could try to pivot your service into making them core, but that doesn’t mean you should.

For whatever reason, Facebook isn’t content to let their text messaging replacement app be good at just sending text-based messages. About a year ago, they added “bots” to the system, which few people seem to use; now, they’ve cluttered it up with this “Day” feature. Perhaps Messenger Day is supposed to be a visual interpretation of a status message, or just a prompt to get people to use Messenger in a different way. But it seems to come at the cost of making the app less good at messaging.

It’s not just Facebook, of course: Apple is facing discovery problems with iMessage apps, and Google’s Allo app — built around the company’s cleverly-named virtual assistant, Assistant — seems to be struggling as well. But both of these features can be easily ignored within the app; you can still use them for basic messaging. Facebook, on the other hand, seems content to muddy its primary messaging app and create something that feels almost like an alternative Facebook experience. To what end?