View profile

Snapchat hits the reset button

Revue
 
Snapchat began life as a novel new messaging app. The addition of stories, which allowed you to broad
 
May 11 · Issue #135 · View online
The Interface
Snapchat began life as a novel new messaging app. The addition of stories, which allowed you to broadcast snippets of your life to the public, turned it into a influencer platform. A series of deals with publishers led to Discover, a kind of vertical-video TV station for people with short attention spans. All of this used to live on three separate screens, but then Snap smushed them together into two. And it turned out that 83 percent of people hated it, and ad revenue plummeted, and user growth slowed to its lowest rate ever, and Snap announced it would be reversing itself.
The great reversing rolled out to users today. My colleague Thuy Ong:
Snap says the new layout puts Snaps and Chats in chronological order again, and moves Stories from your friends back to the right-hand side of the app. When you open the app, it launches the camera, so you can easily swipe left to access the right-hand screen where you’ll find your friends’ content. Like the previous redesign, your friends’ Stories will still remain separate from branded content. Snap has also added a separate Subscriptions feed so you can search more easily for Stories from popular creators and publishers.
If you’re older than 25, this may read like Klingon to you, and I suspect it may be just as confusing to Snapchat’s most dedicated fans. The initial redesign had an aesthetically pleasing division — at least to me: friends to the left, brands to the right. The new redesign feels more arbitrary: chats to the left, stories to the right.
Josh Constine says Snap’s problems stem from a mixture of arrogance and panic:
Perhaps facing an existential crisis from the exceedingly viable alternatives Instagram and WhatsApp, it should never have attempted a sweeping overhaul of its app’s identity. Twitter’s conservative approach to product updates looks wiser in retrospect. Instead, Snap is in decline.
Facebook’s family of apps have survived over the years by changing so gradually that they never shocked users into rebellion, or executing major redesigns when users had no comparable app to switch to. Snapchat calls itself a camera company, but it’s really a “cool” company — powered by the perception of its trendiness with American kids. 
Ben Thompson says the larger issue is that executives can’t be trusted:
Thanks to a disastrous app redesign, Spiegel has lost credibility in the one area it seems he was untouchable: product design.
Unfortunately for Snap, this was the quarter it desperately needed credibility: every question was met with vague hand-waving and assurances that the company was doing right by its users, and that advertisers just needed to be educated on the value Snap provided; what was missing was a reason why investors should believe any of it.
Earlier this year, my colleague Nick Statt and I wrote a story called The Snapping Point. Among other things, we revealed that the bulk of the work on Snapchat’s redesign was completed within six weeks. At the time, it looked like an example of a tech company being more nimble than its peers. In hindsight, it looks reckless.
Evan Spiegel has long been guided by his gut above all, and it has taken him to a handful of powerful insights. But his gut’s aversion to A/B testing, or simply to trusting his top designers and product managers to experiment themselves, has put the company into a precarious position. Snapchat now has a 2-star rating in the App Store.
The new new design of Snapchat shows that, if nothing else, Spiegel is finally listening to his critics. The next move is to start listening to users — through A/B testing — and to his own product teams. Let Spiegel focus on dreaming big dreams, while the rest of the company quietly iterates.

Democracy
Facebook Plans to Create Its Own Cryptocurrency
A New Facebook Feature Shows Which Pro-Trump Facebook Pages Are Run From Overseas
Facebook asks European users which news sources they trust
Inside Cambridge Analytica, Few Knew How Soon the End Would Come
Elsewhere
Facebook Removes Ten Instagram Algorithm-Gaming Groups With Hundreds Of Thousands Of Members
Facebook expands in S.F., will lease space at Park Tower
Digital Ad Market Soars To $88 Billion, Facebook And Google Contribute 90% Of Growth
‘Are you Batman?’: How YouTube’s Volunteer Army Gets Channels Undeleted
Tinder is testing location-tracking features ahead of Facebook’s dating app launch
Takes
How Facebook Binds—and Shatters—Communities
And finally ...
Lil Tay shows social platforms don't enforce age restrictions
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? casey@theverge.com
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue