Why Snapchat and Instagram should make Twitter very nervous


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Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Amid its CEO shuffling, Twitter is prepping a new service called Project Lightning, Buzzfeed recently reported.


Twitter editors will curate tweets, Vines and Periscope videos into a collection of real-time events for the new service, which launches later this year.

The problem is: If you use Snapchat, and now Instagram, you'll realize that these rival social services have already beat Twitter to it.

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Snapchat's live global stories are already seeing an average of 20 million people in a 24-hour window, according to Re/Code. Editors also cull through the noise - one of Twitter's biggest problems - and assemble the daily stories, which can focus on anything from Charleston shooting memorials to random shots taken by people in Barcelona.

And it's already one step ahead of Twitter because it's figured out how to monetize it.


The company introduced ads on the stories last week, starting with a series on Tide detergent, for Father's Day. Re/Code calculated that the Live Stories featured can reportedly make $400,000 from a 10-second ad. It's also launched an in-house ad agency to help brands shoot vertical video for the platform itself.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also just updated its explore section to highlight real-time events as well. It will surface trending locations and hashtags (that word sounds familiar?) and let users flip between photos. Wired's Jessi Hempel wrote that this was to compete with Twitter's forthcoming service - and it looks like it beat them to the punch.

According to Buzzfeed, Twitter's Project Lightning has been kicked around since January and will launch "later this year."

"It's been in the works for a long, long time," Costolo told BuzzFeed's Mat Honan. "I have no doubt that when it launches people will create a narrative that it was the result of something critical. People think I read something and then two months later we launched something - but that's not the way this works. This has been in the works for months and months."

Well, Twitter, that may be the problem.


Two companies that are hits among millennials have already launched competitive features and one has figured out how to monetize it. Project Lightning's one remaining advantage is that anyone will be able to access Twitter's lightning events whether they are logged in or not, and directly from the web. That may not help its slowing user growth, but it looks like we'll have to wait "many months" before we even see Project Lightning anyways.

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