Instagram Will Copy Snapchat's Dancing Hot Dog by December 11, 2019

Here's a cocktail napkin-level prediction.

Snapchat served up a hit when it released its augmented reality dancing hot dog DJ, which can only mean one thing: Instagram wants to copy this AR barbecue breakdancer, but when? We did some sloppy math to make a prediction based on its recent copying trends, that while likely completely wrong, does illustrate the how and when of Instagram’s repeated attempts to eat Snapchat’s lunch.

But first, let’s address the appeal of the dancing hot dog that first appeared online June 23, is deceptively simple: it’s fun to turn your camera on and see a little anthropomorphic hot dog — decked out in relish, mustard, ketchup, and headphones — bopping to music that only it can hear (here’s a guess).

The hot dog DJ, of course, became a meme. People superimposed the dancing sausage onto grocery stores, cars, and historical events. Just look at it:

For Snapchat, the AR filter’s popularity is a victory to relish. But how long will it take for Instagram to ketchup?

Instagram has a history of trailing behind and copying Snapchat’s innovation, but Instagram claims a bigger user base that also skews a little older than Snapchat’s base of 18-24 year-olds. Instagram reported 200 million daily active users in April, compared to 161 million on Snapchat, according to the company’s most recent estimates. What’s more, executives at the two companies have traded jabs online about this intellectual borrowing.

In a podcast appearance in June, Instagram CEO Kevin System said: “You can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology,” in response to accusations that Instagram just copies its competitor.

We looked at five features that Instagram developed that have obvious similarities to features on Snapchat: stories, location- or theme-based stories, face-changing filters, geostickers and live video. Then we counted up the days it took Instagram to roll out a competing feature. The number has steadily gone down as our hasty spreadsheet below shows.

On average it has taken Instagram 884 days (two years, five months) to copy a Snapchat feature.

First, we looked at the number of days between Snapchat and Instagram’s respective rollouts. The 1,034-day gap between the launch of stories on Snapchat and Instagram marked the first major parallel.

The most recent instance of copying — Instagram’s May 16, 2017 launch of “face filters” — came 609 days after Snapchat’s September 14, 2015 rollout of the same feature.

What’s harder to track is the slightly increasing rate of speed in Instagram’s duplications, but if you look at the average number of days — 884 — between the Snapchat debut and the Instagram copying and project it forward, you have December 11, 2019. Which feels like the distant future, but there it is.

And since Snapchat launched the augmented reality feature, World Lenses, on April 18, our cocktail napkin math suggests we’ll see a similar release from Instagram in September 2019.

Thanks, this was fun.