InstaSnap: 4 Infamous Moments In Tech History When Ideas Were Stolen


Written by Jashonda Williams

Every social media site has its own niche, what people like it for and how they differentiate from the next. But early this month when Instagram launched their new “Stories” feature, all of that changed.

Social media apps are becoming increasingly similar. When news hit that Instagram dropped its new version of Stories, the initial public reaction was they stole a page right out of Snapchat’s playbook. To most this may have come as a shock, how could Instagram so blatantly steal Snapchat’s defining feature? The truth is this happens all too often in big business and technology; here are some of the most infamous moments:

Steve Jobs vs. Xerox

We all know Steve Jobs as an innovator and revolutionary in the tech industry, but no one makes it to the top without getting their hands a little dirty. It’s said that Jobs went to visit the Palo Alto Xerox office in the late 70s, and left with an idea that would complement his Macintosh computer perfectly – the mouse. He took the idea and allowed Apple engineers to redesign it, selling it for $200 less than what Xerox priced it at.

Microsoft vs. Apple

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has built one of the most successful tech companies today, but even he knows a good idea when he sees one. It seems as if Apple is always in a legal dispute. In 1988, they filed one against Microsoft claiming they used Graphical User Interface (GUI) for later versions of Windows that were only licensed for Windows 1.0. The judge ended up siding with Microsoft and Gates claimed the GUI wasn’t “copyrightable.”

Microsoft vs. AOL

The 90s in the tech industry was a time when barriers to entry were high for a young company like AOL. The software company persevered through all doubts and became a force to be reckoned with when they, literally, got America online, and launched AIM instant messenger. It wasn’t long before Bill Gates tried to buy them out, and when that deal never happened Microsoft launched their MSN Messenger. Talk about coming directly for AOL (and its premier service).

Google vs. Apple

In another legal battle, Apple claimed Google’s Chrome OS operating system was entirely too similar to its OS X. Both systems run on x86 and ARM processors, optimized for the Internet and built from an open source UNIX variant. It seems as if each time Apple launches a product, a Google launch isn’t far behind. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Google gave us Android the same year.

These moments in tech history are important. They’ve always happened and will likely continue as long as companies have the freedom to compete. There’s a lesson to be learned by everyone, not just aspiring Silicon Valley (and Alley) giants: True innovation is rarely seen nowadays. Almost everything has been done, but those who make it are the ones who find a new way to do it all. Instagram found a new way to allow its users to post and, just like Snapchat, we all have to adjust.