After years of creating Snapchat clones in standalone apps, Facebook is now taking a new approach — and it's one that might actually work. Following months of testing, the social network is now putting a full-on Snapchat clone front and center inside the main Facebook app. The update not only pushes you to use Facebook's new camera feature but puts friends' stories — yes, it's called Facebook Stories — at the top of your News Feed.
The update, which is rolling out now, consists of three features: Facebook Camera, the Snapchat-like camera the company has been testing in Ireland and Brazil, Facebook Stories, and Direct, a dedicated space for messages exchanged via the new in-app camera.
The camera is pretty much the same as we've seen in Facebook's previous tests. Accessible from the top left corner of the Facebook app, you can decorate your photos and videos with filters, "masks" (Facebook's version of lenses), and other animated effects.
When you're done, you can add them to your story (more on that in a second), share it in News Feed or privately message it via Direct. Photos and videos shared via Direct will — of course — disappear after they've been viewed, though they can be replayed once (sound familiar?)
All this, by the way, is completely separate from the other Snapchat clone Facebook recently launched inside of Messenger.
But the star of the update is Facebook Stories, which like Instagram, will be extremely prominent right at the top of News Feed (note that Facebook will rank stories algorithmically based on which friends your closest to, rather than in reverse chronological order as Snapchat does.)
Stories on Facebook function pretty much the same as Instagram's, though you can control which friends can view your story more tightly (adjusting who sees your story is just like adjusting who can see your posts in News Feed.)
Another notable difference: Facebook isn't monetizing stories just yet so, for now, don't expect to see ads between stories (though if Instagram's ramp-up to advertising is any indication, it won't be long before it does.) That said, the company did work with a few partners on animated lenses for the camera (sort of like Snapchat's sponsored lenses) and plans to have masks for some upcoming movies, including Despicable Me 3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Wonder Woman. They also tapped two artists to contribute to some filter designs.
By now, you're probably thinking that all this pretty much exactly like Snapchat. That's because it is. Once again, Facebook has managed to create a near-identical version of Snapchat within one of its own services.
You (and Miranda Kerr) might hate that — how many Snapchat clones does one company really need — but if the success of Instagram's Stories is any indication, Facebook Stories will be an easy sell to its 1 billion mobile users.
Snapchat may have to step up its game.