How Does Facebook’s Poke Compare to Snapchat?


This past Friday, Facebook unleashed the Poke app in an attempt to become a force in the hugely popular self-destructing messaging market that Snapchat has recently dominated.

In the early days of Facebook, the poke feature was simply used to get someone’s attention, sort of like a wink or a “look at me” gesture. The poke feature is still around, but Facebook realized that with the emergence of Snapchat, it needed a serious makeover and could be leveraged as a competitor.

Facebook has now expanded upon the classic poke and turned it into a brand new app.This app is currently only available for mobile devices. The company has made it an effort to keep it mobile for now; you will not even receive Facebook notifications from Poke if you are on the desktop site.

The Poke app allows you to poke, send text-based messages, photos, and videos to your Facebook friends. You can add text or make doodles to add to photos to give them a more personalized feel. You have the ability to choose a time that you want any of these messages to be viewable and after the time is up, they will self-destruct and won’t be seen again.

However, you will know if the recipient of your message took a screenshot of it, as a flash icon will appear next to the message to signify that a screenshot was taken, as is the case with Snapchat. In order for you to send a Poke, the Facebook friend that you sent it to has to download the app in order to see it.

Snapchat vs. Poke: The Breakdown

Many people across the web see Poke as a complete imitation of Snapchat. Poke attempts to accomplish the same things with photos and videos that Snapchat has already done. Nonetheless, if you do try to look beyond Snapchat’s copycat, there are some slight differences between the two.

Text, Time, and Character Limits

For example, with Poke, you can send pokes as well as plain text messages in addition to photo and video, whereas Snapchat is poke-vs-snapchat3limited to just pictures and videos. This feature can come in handy when you want to send something to a friend, but aren’t really in the picture or video taking mood.

Another minor difference between Poke and Snapchat: Poke gives you the option to send messages for 1, 3, 5 or 10 seconds, while Snapchat lets you choose any amount of time between 1-10.

A more significant difference is that Poke allows you to send 120 character messages, whereas Snapchat limits you to 33 character photo captions. Whenever I use Snapchat I feel limited by the amount of extra words I can add to each picture, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Poke.

Identity and Connections

When it comes to your username, Poke forces you to use your Facebook name and Snapchat allows you to choose a username. Allowing users to choose their screen name really gives Snapchat the edge due to the added customization that a user can have.

Additionally, there are some Snapchat users who send messages to strangers just for fun. These people don’t want others knowing their real names, so having a unique username is extremely important. To this point, Poke only allows you to communicate with people you are Facebook friends with, while Snapchat gives you the option to add Facebook friends, as well as friends from your phone contacts or from a username search.

Security Concerns

One of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the use of Snapchat has been, Are your pictures and videos really deleted after the recipient views them? Snapchat has made a great effort to demonstrate to its users that the app does do not store any pictures or videos that users send and that each is individually deleted after it is viewed by a recipient.

Many people have been reluctant to try this feature on Poke because of their past privacy experience with Facebook. I, for one, feel that there are times when Facebook is intrusive with my privacy and I am often wary about how they use the information that I provide to them.

In terms of Poke, it has been reported that all Poke messages are stored in encrypted form and retained for two days after the recipient views them. After this period, the encryption key is deleted. However, it may still be possible to recover the encryption key from logs and backups for up to 90 days.

This information has been met with criticism by current Poke users. There are many people who send pictures or videos in confidence, believing that they will be deleted immediately. The fact that Poke does not currently do that could be a turnoff to using the service.

My Thoughts

Overall, my opinion of Poke is not overly positive. I feel that it is an attempt by Facebook to copy virtually everything that Snapchat has done. Facebook did not truly attempt to give their users any unique features that cannot be found on Snapchat, but certainly has the advantage of a strong community already in place, due to the app’s connection with the social networking site.

I expected Facebook to put their own unique spin on the app in an attempt to make it special. Although I am currently put off by the Poke app, I am interested to see how Facebook improves and adds upon it in the future, and if users will prefer it to the wildly popular Snapchat.

What’s your opinion on Poke? Do you see it as a smart move by Facebook, or a shameless copy of Snapchat? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Joey Creighton

Joey Creighton '15 studied Information Management and Technology at the Syracuse University iSchool, with minors in Public Communication Studies and Sport Management. Connect with him on Twitter: @joeycreighton

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  • Kevin Scream

    What I like about facebook is that it has all the tools and services we really needed like the chatting and aside from that, they kept on updating and updating in order to get the attention of the users and the followers as well.