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This article was published on December 15, 2016

Facebook Messenger’s new camera outplays Snapchat just in time for Christmas

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that case, Facebook Messenger just flattered the heck out of Snapchat.

It’s no secret that Facebook has been settings its sites on its oh-so-yellow rival, but today’s update to Messenger is the greatest shot across the bow since Instagram first added Stories to its apps.

The new Messenger camera dose pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from Snapchat’s cameras. You can add stickers and emoji, you can draw, you can add masks, frames, and other effects. Oh and there are those Prisma-copying features as well. There are a few holiday themed effects already available, like a reindeer mask.

Meanwhile, the company has been testing a similar camera in its main app, although that trial is currently limited to Ireland.

But not all of it is blatant copying. As with Instagram stories, there are some real improvements over its competitors as well. For instance, you can add multiple ‘props’ to your images and basically create your own masks instead of being limited to the available presets.

There’s also a search bar you can type in to look up pre-made art for your images, or even algorithmically create new text filters.

One nice touch, as pointed out by TechCrunch, is a stylized camera button atop your inbox that will let you know when Facebook has uploaded new effects to try out. You can also now capture an image before selecting the recipients you’re sending it to, putting the focus on the image taking process rather than individual conversations.

It’s an easy way to get users to use their cameras more often, and subtly convince them that Messenger is now a platform for photos and selfies and much as it is for text.

If you don’t feel like sharing your mug, you can tap on a new palette button to to draw and add stickers to a blank canvas.

While Facebook doesn’t win a prize for being most original, there’s something to be said about the convenience of having all these feat
ures right on Messenger. I’m only a light Snapchat user because most of the people I talk with aren’t on the platform, and I like being able to look back on my chat history; I can’t make long term plans using Snapchat. But Snapchat had all the cool effects, so it kept a spot on my homescreen.

With Facebook now being able to replicate so many of its features, there’s less reason for me to use Snapchat – and I’m probably not the only one who will feel that way. The new Messenger camera is rolling out around the world on both iOS and Android, starting today.

Your move, Snapchat.

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