Snapchat is about to undergo a significant design overhaul that its creators say will help separate “the social from the media.” The major update will reportedly begin rolling out to a small section of users on Android and iOS this coming Friday. A wider global rollout will follow in the coming weeks.
The news comes shortly after Snap posted its Q3 2017 earnings report that highlighted the company’s dire financial year so far.
Plummeting stock prices, staff layoffs, unsold Spectacles, and an overall lack of significant user growth have all painted a sorry picture for the social company, but its CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegal is keen to separate the firm’s recent past with its future.
In a rousing op-ed posted earlier today over at Axios, Spiegal outlined how the changes coming to the app will apparently distance the platform from its rivals, particularly those owned by a certain Californian giant called Facebook.
On the surface, the Snapchat’s new style looks a lot like its previous iterations, but the ethos behind its fundamental design has changed dramatically. For starters, the Snapchat app will physically separate instant videos, pictures, and messages sent by your actual friends from those delivered by media brands. You can see this for yourself in the example video below where your friends list sits on the left and the influencer/publisher-led “Discover” section on the right.
As Spiegal puts it: “this will provide a better way for publishers to distribute and monetize their Stories, and a more personal way for friends to communicate and find the content they want to watch.”
As an ex-Snapchat user, this strikes me as a very savvy move both from a business and a consumer perspective.
WhatsApp’s Status and Instagram’s Stories features have borrowed liberally from Snapchat’s innovative blink-and-you’ll-miss-it approach to instant messaging, but, for the most part, Facebook’s alternatives have offered a much slicker, less confusing interface.
The upcoming changes present a much simpler interface that also doesn’t patronize its user-base by pretending that it isn’t trying to make money as well as providing a platform for keeping in contact with friends and family.
Spiegal also references how this new approach could potentially stem the tide of ‘fake news’ on its service, with fact-checked stories emerging from the Discover section rather than kneejerk, unverified posts on the social side.
Snap is looking to retain the personal aspect, however, which poses a problem when trying to relay a broad selection of media content in a way that’s tailored to each user. The solution, as has been the case with so many companies in the past few years, is apparently AI-driven algorithms.
“The Snapchat solution is to rely on algorithms based on your interests — not on the interests of ‘friends’ — and to make sure media companies also profit from the content they produce for our Discover platform,” Spiegal wrote, before stressing that unlike other platforms (he’s definitely alluding to Mark Zuckerberg’s mega-corp here), all Discover content will be curated and/or moderated by a living, breathing human being.
In addition, the update will also reinstate the Stories auto-advance feature that so many users bemoaned the loss of late last year. Now, you can play your friends’ posts one after the other, only this time you’ll see a brief preview screen that gives you the opportunity to skip over to the next friend in line.
All in all, Snapchat’s new look appears to be a step in the right direction. You can hear more from Spiegal on the reasoning behind the changes in the video above. Once you’ve watched it, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments.