It is not news to anyone that the Snapchat lost a lot of market after the rise of Instagram. What nobody expected is that the Snap to set up a dossier that, in the company’s understanding, brings together all the unfair tactics adopted by the Facebook to end the service. Not coincidentally, the document was named after a well-known villain: Project Voldemort.
The revelation about the dossier comes from Wall Street Journal. According to the vehicle, Snap’s legal department (you know, the company responsible for Snapchat) has spent the past few years documenting the various approaches that Facebook would have taken in order to break Snapchat.
The issue has come up now because the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been conducting an anti-monopoly investigation against Facebook (and other technology giants) and, as part of these efforts, has been talking to rivals in the company.
A number of technology company executives have been heard, but none are likely to have delivered a document as extensive as Snap’s Project Voldemort.
In the dossier, the company states that Mark Zuckerberg gave a kind of ultimatum to leaders of several startups, including Evan Spiegel, Snap’s CEO, and Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare: either accept to sell their operations or see Facebook copy their services and “make it hard for them” to function.
Both executives rejected the “proposals”. In the case of Snapchat, it is said that Facebook tried to buy the platform in 2013 for $ 3 billion and made another takeover offer in 2016.
In the face of the refusals, the company reportedly put Zuckerberg’s alleged threats into execution: Instagram started to allow the publication of ephemeral content – the so popular stories – in August 2016 and, later, took the resource to other services, such as Facebook itself .
The consequences are those we already know: Snapchat started to lose users and, simultaneously, the time spent by those who stayed on the platform plummeted. Snapchat still has an important base of active accounts, but nothing compares to the period between 2011 and 2016, when the service experienced its peak.
But it did not stop there. In the dossier, Snap also says that Facebook would have threatened to revoke the verified profile seal of major influencers who made some kind of mention of Snapchat. In addition, Instagram would have blocked search terms related to the rival service.
Onavo Project in the sights
Still according to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC also tries to find out whether the Onavo Project has unfairly benefited Facebook. The service was purchased by Facebook in 2013, promoted as a free VPN tool and discontinued in February 2019 due to a privacy scandal.
The suspicion is that Facebook would have analyzed Onavo’s data traffic to identify when and what Snapchat features users of the tool would be using.
Facebook defended itself by saying that “building and iterating” resources based on rival services helped to increase competition and that Onavo’s technology was similar to the features of other tools of the kind. It remains to be seen whether American regulators will swallow these arguments.