- Snapchat’s biggest-ever redesign simplifies the app into three main windows and separates all communication with friends from professionally produced content.
- A new Discover feed shows algorithmically sorted content from media partners and verified celebrities. Unlike Facebook, Snap employees will approve everything that appears in its content feed.
- The redesign will be made available to a small percentage of users later this week before rolling out to everyone early next week.
After years of aversion, Snapchat is embracing the feed.
The biggest redesign in the app’s six-year history, announced Wednesday, features a new kind of algorithmically sorted feed that borrows ideas from the likes of Facebook and Netflix.
Instead of showing posts from friends alongside content from professional publishers like Facebook, the new Snapchat separates all interactions with friends in a section of the app to the left of the camera. That includes messaging threads and so-called Stories – photos and videos someone shares, shown in chronological order, that disappear in 24 hours.
In a move aimed at simplifying Snapchat’s historically confusing design, the app is now divided into three main windows: all interactions with friends on the left, the camera in the center, and the Discover page on the right with an endless feed of content from media partners and public figures. Business Insider first reported details of the planned redesign earlier this month.
Once the darling app of the tech world, Snapchat has failed to meet Wall Street’s growth expectations since going public earlier this year. And as Facebook has successfully copied some of Snapchat’s core features in Instagram, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., is looking to this redesign to kick-start growth and make its app more appealing to a wider user base.
Separating friends from publishers
One of the goals of Snapchat’s redesign, which will be made available first to a small percentage of users later this week, was to lessen the confusion around the previous app’s Stories page to the right of the camera.
The page previously included Stories shared by friends alongside content from Discover, Snapchat’s hub for media partners like The Daily Mail and BuzzFeed. Private messages threads with friends, meanwhile, existed to the left of the camera, two swipes away from the Stories they shared.
“Until now, social media has always mixed photos and videos from your friends with content from publishers and creators,” Snap wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. “While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting Internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves.”
The new window to the left of the camera will now show only message threads and Stories from friends.
Unread messages from friends will be shown at the top of the window, in chronological order, while other message threads and Stories will be shown algorithmically based on whom Snapchat believes you care about most. Snapchat will use signals like how often you communicate with a user or view their Story to determine the ranking.
Profile information, including your yellow QR “Snapcode,” is visible above conversations with friends instead of in a separate window above the camera. Snapchat has reintroduced autoplaying Stories after it killed the feature last year.
Snap Map, the feature that shows your friends’ locations on a map, is still accessible by pinching out the camera view, but it will also be shown more in search and next to peoples’ profiles.
A social-media feed with no friends
During Snap’s last earnings call with investors, CEO Evan Spiegel said the redesign would address some of the “shortcomings” of feed-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter.
By keeping friend-based communication separate from content created by professionals in the feed, Snap is trying to avoid what it sees as a pitfall of continually requiring users to add more friends to see more content.
The new Snapchat Discover page will feature a personalized feed of content from the app’s more than 70 media partners along with Stories about breaking news events and specific locations, sourced from public videos shared by users and edited by humans at Snap.
Each feed will be ranked based on the user’s viewing habits and the media brands to which they’ve subscribed. The decision to approve which people and media partners make it into the feed is like Netflix’s approach and further separates Snapchat from more open platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
With the redesign, Snapchat will also feature Stories shared by what it calls popular accounts. If a Snapchat user is starting to gain traction and grow their following, Snapchat’s editors will decide whether to feature it in the Discover feed.
A Snap representative declined to explain which exact factors would contribute to an account being featured, but they acknowledged that the decision was aimed at fostering the kinds of native internet celebrities who thrive on platforms like YouTube. Snapchat has historically ignored this class of power user.
Ways for individual creators to make money will be introduced in 2018. Popular accounts that Snap has vetted will also have detailed analytics for their public Stories for the first time.
An opportunity to better target
Besides the videos ads that run between content on the Discover page now, the new feed will also include Snapchat’s recently introduced Promoted Stories.
Advertisers will be able to buy slots in Discover from Snap’s sales team that look like nonsponsored Story content from other publishers. Promoted Stories are shown to all Snapchat users now but could eventually be targeted to specific users and available through the company’s self-service ad auction.
While a feed-based system is unproved with Snapchat’s younger user base, the redesign represents an opportunity for Snap to better target its ads at a time when investors are questioning the business’s ability to grow. Spiegel has historically been against the kinds of highly targeted ads that have made Facebook and Google billions, but Snap has recently tried to make its ads more customizable and accessible.
The redesign will first be available to a small percentage of users later this week and then roll out more broadly early next week, according to a Snap representative.