A New Facebook Camera App Won't Win Anyone Back

Image: AP
Image: AP

People aren’t sharing as much about their personal lives on Facebook as they used to, and so the company is reportedly hoping the launch of a new camera app will help solve that problem.


According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is developing a standalone camera app to encourage its users to share more original photos and videos. The app reportedly opens directly to your phone’s camera—just like to Snapchat—and will require very few steps to snap a photo or capture video. Exactly where those photos and videos will end up once you take them is still unclear.

The unconfirmed rumor about the new Facebook’s app comes on the heels of a damning report published earlier this month by The Information, in which the publication claimed Facebook is experiencing a 21 percent decline in original sharing year-over-year. In simple terms, that means people aren’t posting as many status updates, photos, or original media on the social network as they used to.

Although Facebook insists that sharing remains “strong” across its network, it has acknowledged that people are less likely to share personal information as their network of friends grows larger.

This dramatic decline in original sharing is obviously a huge problem for the world’s most popular Web 2.0 company. Without new user-generated content, Facebook could easily collapse like the social networks that came before it: Myspace, Friendster, LiveJournal, and plenty of other social networks have horrifically fallen from grace because users took their original content elsewhere.

While Facebook experiences a major decline in sharing, Snapchat is experiencing booming growth in its number of users and the amount of content they share. According to a report from last year, Snapchat has 100 million daily active users, of which 65 percent are uploading original photos. A study from this year found that Snapchat users are sending 9,000 snaps every second.

Facebook has closely followed Snapchat’s growth and desperately wanted a piece of the action for years. Facebook reportedly tried to acquire Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013. Following a failed acquisition, Facebook tried to build its own Snapchat competitor called Slingshot. The app was was a massive failure and was eventually pulled from both the Google Play and App Store.


Even before Slingshot, there was Facebook Poke, the company’s first ripoff of Snapchat. Again, Facebook basically created a carbon copy of a popular product and expected people to jump on board because of its name. Unfortunately, Facebook does not have much brand loyalty.

And that’s why this new camera app won’t get anyone’s personal sharing back on Facebook—not on its own anyway. Facebook’s ubiquity has actually caused the coveted teen demographic (not to mention, er, recovering teens like me) to refrain from sharing as much about our personal lives. It’s become a “social burden” according to one Pew Study, and that’s exactly right.


Everyone we know is on the network, not only family and friends, but extended family and our outermost fringe friends. To share something on Facebook is to reveal it to the entire world—even if your settings indicate otherwise. We’ve all seen people get fired for doing dumb shit on Facebook or getting caught doing things they wanted to keep private. The network is a really good way of exposing embarassing things about people, often to a greater degree than they should be exposed.

The only way Facebook could possibly earn back the trust of its users would be to create an app that automatically deletes the content that you share to it. The problem is that Facebook has already done that before (it’s already sort of Snapchat’s bag). If Facebook’s new camera app is anything like Poke or Slingshot, it’s not going to win back anyone.



Very Little Gravitas Indeed

So original content is way down, resharing is up? Sounds like the hole they dug themselves with the heavy work they did on Timeline over the past few years. Smashed any sense of a chronological sequence of events, easy Share buttons plastered all over every bit of content everywhere that they can touch, bumping stuff back to the top of the “time”line for every single reshare (with the added brag about the number of folks who have shared it now).

They made it what it is, and a new camera app won’t even make an incremental change in it at this point.