logo

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on Facebook imitations: 'The innovators win in the long run'

Key Points
  • Facebook and its wholly owned photo-sharing app Instagram have each integrated features that originally rolled out on Snapchat.
  • Both companies are building out their original content and AR offerings.
  • It's not just about the features though, Spiegel said, suggesting Snap has an ethical advantage over competitors like Facebook.
VIDEO2:5302:53
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on competing with Facebook

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel isn't worried about Facebook's frequent imitations of his app features, saying Monday, "the innovators win in the long run."

"I think usually when the innovators win is when a really big platform shift happens, which is why we're investing so heavily in things like augmented reality," Spiegel told CNBC's Julia Boorstin Monday from the Cannes Lions festival. "We believe ultimately, in the next couple decades, that computing's going to be overlaid on the world around you."

The annual festival is heavily attended by advertisers.

Facebook and its wholly owned photo-sharing app Instagram have each integrated features that originally rolled out on Snapchat, like photo Stories that disappear after 24 hours. Both companies are building out their original content and AR offerings.

It's not just about the features though, Spiegel said, suggesting Snap has an ethical advantage over competitors like Facebook.

"I think one of the things that's become really clear over the past couple months is how important values are to consumers and therefore to advertisers," he said. "I think now a lot of times when people are buying advertising products, they, of course, want them to work ... but they also want to feel good about what they're buying. They want to feel like they're having a positive impact on the world."

A handful of advertisers abandoned Facebook, at least temporarily, in the wake of privacy scandals and a user-led movement to delete the app. The company has added transparency to its advertising business and vowed to better protect user information.

"I think one of the things that we've done with our customers is built a lot of trust over time, so that people understand when they use Snapchat that we're respectful of their data and give them choice about how that's used," Spiegel said Monday.

The company recently rolled out a developer platform that allows other apps to integrate with Snapchat's login or camera. The option is similar to what Google and Facebook offer, and part of what landed Facebook in hot water after a third-party developer mishandled user information through the feature.

"We think it's really important for people to understand that they can get a lot of value from developer products without compromising their privacy," Spiegel said.

Snap is better positioned to navigate a data scandal like Facebook's, Spiegel said.

"I think one of the really unique things is even from the beginning of our company, when we were in my dorm room or in my dad's house, we were thinking a lot about data minimization and these issues," he said. "We'd definitely made mistakes and we probably will make some in the future but I think this trust we've built with our user base over time by doing the right thing will certainly help us navigate any mistakes we make in the future."

Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment from CNBC.

Snap has faced its own criticism from users and advertisers alike in recent months, after an app redesign separated friend content from celebrity and paid publisher content.

Snap walked the redesign back slightly, putting Stories from friends back on the app's Discover tab alongside publisher Stories.

"We definitely made some changes to the communication side of the service that we didn't need to make and frankly I'm happy with the changes we've made," Spiegel said of walking back the redesign.

The company's stock has largely recovered after hitting all-time lows in May following a crucial earnings miss. The shares are up roughly 30 percent in last month, but still down roughly 20 percent in the last year.

Disclosure: CNBC parent company NBCUniversal is an investor in Snap.