In the realm of social media, all roads lead to one destination: cracking the code of continuous partial attention dopamine hits. We learned this back in the days of Vine, before Twitter foolishly killed it. And I pointed my lens at the emerging trend back in 2016 when I highlighted for Mashable, just before it was snapped up by China’s Bytedance for $1 billion and merged into what is now TikTok.

What isn’t often mentioned is the fact that, after Twitter dropped the Vine ball back in 2017, Snapchat was left as the lone, most prominent purveyor of sticky, addictive multimedia mobile content. Users were enthralled, and the media loved Los Angeles-based Snapchat’s rise among Silicon Valley’s social media giants.

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Everything was going fine…and then Snap founder Evan Spiegel turned down Mark Zuckerberg’s $3 billion acquisition offer in 2013. Not long after, Facebook’s immensely popular Instagram app soon became a copycat engine, churning out its own Snapchat-like features at every turn.

Even Snap’s dedication to augmented reality has been diligently mirrored by Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram. The most famous example is Instagram Stories, which Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom openly admitted was a copy of Snapchat Stories.

The practice has been going on so long that it hardly ever gets mentioned anymore. In fact, when Twitter recently released its new Fleets feature, there’s been little discussion of how the ephemerality of the feature was pioneered by Snapchat.

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But while these feature wars were going in the West, Bytedance continued iterating on TikTok’s features, including augmented reality, and now it has become clear that the real threat for global social media dominance is coming from China.



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