Oddly enough, despite controlling one of the two dominant mobile platforms, they have yet to be able to launch a successful messaging app. That’s about as utility-driven a social application as there is, akin to email where Google does have sizeable market share with GMail. It’s a shame as Google could probably use social as an added layer of utility in many of their products, especially in Google Maps.
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They’ve tried to add some social features to the photo album on iOS, though every time I’ve tried them out I end up more bewildered than anything else. The number of people who claim to be above status games exceeds those who actually are. Have I met a few people in my life who are seemingly above all status games? Yes, but they are so few as to be something akin to miracles, and damn them for making the rest of us feel lousy over our vanity. Despite this, everyone I know is engaged in multiple status games.
The challenge, as anyone competing in the messaging space knows, is that creating any durable utility advantage is brutally hard. In the game theory of tech competition, it’s best to assume that any feature that can be copied will. And messaging may never be, from a profit perspective, the most lucrative of businesses. I’m going to guess many of my readers don’t, because, as noted earlier, old people probably didn’t play that status game, if they’d even figured out how to use Snapchat by that point.
This was just about as pure a status game feature as could be engineered for teens. Not only did it show the top three people you Snapped with most frequently, you could look at who the top three best friends were for any of your contacts. Essentially, it made the hierarchy of everyone’s “friendships” public, making the popularity scoreboard explicit. Anyone who has studied kids using Snapchat know that it’s just as integral a part of high school status and FOMO wars as Facebook, and arguably more so now that those kids largely don’t use Facebook.
Hundreds of millions of users, a ton of usage among teens, isn’t that proof that Apple can do social? Many of our tech giants, in fact, are probably always going to be weak at social absent executive turnover or smart acquisitions. Take Apple, which has directx update actually tried before at building out social features.
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Some people sneer at people hashtag spamming on Instagram, but then retweet praise on Twitter. Others roll their eyes at photo albums of expensive meals on Facebook but then submit research papers to prestigious journals in the hopes of being published. A franchise like, say, Call of Duty, learns to manage this cycle by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to issue a new version of the game regularly. Each game offers familiarity but a new set of levels and challenges and environments.