Facebook has begun rolling out Stories to its main app, enabling users to enjoy the main features of Snapchat without actually having a Snapchat account.

The social network started pushing out its own version of Stories to the iOS and Android versions of its main app on Tuesday. There are three main parts of Facebook Stories, which are a new camera inside the app, a new Stories feed at the top of the main News Feed, and the new private Direct messaging feature. Taken together, all the new features certainly sound like a holistic assault on Snap, which markets itself as a camera company rather than a social media firm even though its most well-known product is a messaging app.

Facebook stories snapchat
Image source: Facebook

Facebook Camera… or Snap?

The new in-app camera is the cornerstone of the update to the app. To access it, users tap the new button located at the top of the News Feed. The camera includes over 100 effects and animations that can be placed over images, including everything from masks, rainbows and cityscapes to falling snow and glitter. Users can also add text or doodles to the photos they take with the camera. Some of the art filters are similar to those you might find in the Prisma app, so apparently, Facebook doesn’t have only Snap in its crosshairs.

The social media giant isn’t taking a “one size fits all” approach with the filters. It has built nine market-specific collections of effects. Among the markets being targeted with customized effects collections are the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. The company is also building masks for popular movies by partnering with various film franchises, such as Despicable Me, Smurfs, Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Over the next few weeks, the company also plans to add filters for voices so that users can make their voices sound high-pitched, change their accent, or change their voices in other fun ways. It also plans to add a way for users to make their own effects and frames.

Stories brings disappearing photos to main FB app

The in-app camera is part of a massive update which also brings disappearing photos to the main Facebook app. Stories allows users to share a series of videos or photos in a “visual collection” at the top of the News Feed. Users can view their friends’ Stories for only 24 hours after they’re posted. They won’t appear in the main News Feed unless the person sharing them posts them there in addition to in the Stories tab.

The new messaging feature is called Direct, and it makes it easier to share photos or videos with specific friends for limited periods of time. Recipients of Direct messages can view them once and then either replay it or reply to it. The messages disappear after the content isn’t visible in Direct anymore.

Flattery or a rip-off?

Some say the highest form of flattery is copycatting, but what about when you’re the newly-public Snap being copied by the social media king Facebook? The effort to clone Snapchat didn’t come all at once. It started slowly with Instagram Stories in August.

It’s certainly interesting that a company as massive as Facebook feels threatened enough that it needs to copy the new kid on the block, especially given that the company tried to buy Snap a few years ago and was rejected. Apparently, the company didn’t need to own the Snapchat parent because it could just make its own version of the messaging platform’s features and offer it under the same name.