Entrepreneurs

Did Instagram copy Snapchat? Not exactly, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom says.

Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom.
Vivien Killilea
Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom.

Over the past year, Instagram has started to look more and more like its chief rival, Snapchat: The Facebook-owned app now has Stories, face filters, live video and disappearing messages, all features that rose to popularity as Snap creations. On April Fools' Day, Snap itself got in on the meme by appearing to "copy" Instagram.

But, as Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom pointed out on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, copying is neither new nor unique to this situation.

"Let's take Instagram, Day One: Instagram was a combination of Hipstamatic, Twitter [and] some stuff from Facebook like the 'Like' button," Systrom said. "You can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology."

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Calling the criticism "fair," he likened the two social apps' common features to the auto industry: Multiple car companies can coexist, with enough differences among them that they serve different consumer audiences.

"Imagine the only car in the world was the Model T right now," Systrom said. "Someone invents the car, it's really cool, but do you blame other companies for also building cars that have wheels and a steering wheel and A.C. and windows? The question is, what unique stuff do you build on top of it?"

Kevin Systrom
Larry Busacca | Getty Images
Kevin Systrom

"When we adopted [Stories], we decided that one of the really annoying things about the format is that it just kept going and you couldn't pause it to look at something, you couldn't rewind," he added. "We did all that, we implemented that."

In other words, Systrom argued, if Instagram had really just "copied" Snap and not added its own twist on the Stories product, it wouldn't have succeeded.

"It would be crazy if we saw something that worked with consumers that was in our domain and we didn't decide to compete on it," he said. "I think Snapchat's a great company, I think they're going to continue to do well, but when you look back — they didn't have filters, originally. They adopted filters because Instagram had filters and a lot of others were trying to adopt filters as well. And you could have said the same thing at the time, 'We're copying each other,' but I don't know, that's just the way Silicon Valley works."

"The question is, who executes the best?" Systrom added. "That is going to be the determination of who wins in the long run. But honestly, it's not going to be one winner. Facebook's not the only social network in the world, but I think that's okay. I think that's what makes Silicon Valley work, that competition, looking around and adopting best-in-breed things to make your service better."

Whatever you want to call it — copying, borrowing, adoption — Instagram's new features are serving it nicely. The company now has more than 700 million monthly active users, 200 million of whom use Stories every day.

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This article originally appeared on Recode.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.