In the race to stay fresh and gain millennial users, the battle between Snapchat and Instagram heated up this year as the two apps constantly tried to one-up each other with new features.
The narrative has particularly focused on Facebook-owned Instagram, which has added ephemeral Instagram Stories, filters, stickers and curated video this year. Facebook has also pulled a few features from Snapchat's playbook into Facebook Messenger to entice people to communicate with their friends solely through Facebook. The strategy is evidentially working—at least so far. Last week, Instagram revealed that it has 600 million users, up from 500 million in June.
Here's a chronological look at how the companies' back-and-forth played out this year.
March: Snapchat voice calls
July: Snapchat Memories
As Snap heads towards its rumored IPO next year, Snapchat is trying to ditch being known as an ephemeral app, instead calling itself a "camera company."
Part of that vision became a bit clearer in July with Snapchat Memories—a feature that lets people save snaps, essentially becoming a built-in photo library. Memories is also how Snap's video-recording Spectacles connect to Snapchat so that people can post circular clips.
August: Instagram Stories
Instagram made its biggest jab at Snapchat in August when it launched Instagram Stories—collections of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. In October, Instagram announced that 100 million users—roughly two-thirds of Snapchat's 150 million daily users—employ the feature every day.
August: Instagram Events
To help folks find and discover video content, Instagram launched an Events video channel in August that curates clips around events and holidays like the Rio Olympics and concerts—similar to Snapchat's Live Stories.
August: Facebook's vertical videos
While Instagram dominated most of the narrative this year, Facebook Inc. also took a few pages from Snapchat's playbook, including vertical video ads.
September: Instagram Zoom
This fall, Instagram started letting people zoom in on their photos with Instagram Zoom. While it's not a direct hit at Snapchat, Snapchat does have a similar zoom feature for recording video.
General Electric and Morning Star Farms were some of the first brands to test out Instagram Zoom.
October: Facebook filters
Later in the fall, Facebook began experimenting with several other Snapchat-like features, including "digital masks" that mimic Snapchat lenses in Ireland. Similar features that let users draw on and add text to their photos are also now a part of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
November: Instagram Live
When Instagram launched live video last month, the app added a Snapchat-like twist that automatically deletes videos after the user stops broadcasting.
Folks can also now send direct messages that contain disappearing photos and videos to each other.
December: Snapchat Chat
Last week, Snapchat launched group chats, letting up to 16 people talk to each other at once. The feature seems squarely aimed at chat apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat that offer inexpensive messaging services.
December: Instagram Stickers
On Tuesday, Instagram rolled out emoji-like stickers to Stories that let users overlay graphics on top of their short-lived photos and videos.
The update also includes location tags and graphics that pull in a user's time and current weather—much like Snapchat geofilters.