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Facebook is bringing a Snapchat clone to emerging markets before the real deal can win there

Residents take a selfie under a tent at the Reales Tamarindos airport, after being evacuated from their homes in Portoviejo, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast
Take more "flashes" instead of "snaps."
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

No matter how hard Facebook tries, its Instagram Stories and Messenger Days can’t seem to dethrone the original Snapchat app in the US. But in emerging markets, Facebook still has an opportunity to become leader.

Ever since Snapchat rejected Facebook’s $3 billion buyout offer in 2013, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network has been creating imitations to fight the app’s success. The latest copycat attempt is a standalone app launched in Brazil on Nov. 8 called Flash, which allows people to send ephemeral text and video messages. The app will let you “add fun face masks, draw and send disappearing messages,” Snapchat’s signature features.

Flash could give Snapchat a run for its money in emerging markets, where users are strapped for data and storage space. The app takes up less than 25 megabytes as opposed to Snapchat, which consumes over 70 MB. It also comes with data saving features like loading media only after a user prompts interest in viewing it, caching media over Wifi when possible, and allowing for an offline mode where “Flashes” will be sent after connectivity is regained. Users will also be able to post through the app even when the internet is patchy or limited.

“We specifically built Flash to bring a great experience to Android users regardless of their data connection or phone mode,” a Facebook spokesperson told Quartz. Since iPhones aren’t popular in price-sensitive markets beyond the west, debuting on Android—the operating service running the vast majority of the world’s smartphones—was a calculated choice. To gain users who don’t switch out handsets frequently, the app supports most Android devices released in the last four years. An iOS release has not yet been announced.

Launching in Brazil first could help the app gain traction by piggybacking on the success of Facebook and WhatsApp in the country. The latter, which Facebook bought in 2014, is king among the messaging apps, with over 100 million users in Brazil.he Menlo Park giant is instead looking to make a mark in places like Brazil, where only 9% of the population uses Snapchat.Flash will roll out to other markets following the test in Brazil.

Facebook has a long history of going after Snapchat, which boasts 150 million active daily users. Here are some highlights:

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