Even after 1.2 million users signed a Change.org petition, Snap doubled down on the changes made to Snapchat — a major update that totally restructures the face of it. Because it was such a huge update that influenced the user experience and design of it all, there is always expected pushback, particularly from longstanding users who have become accustomed to a certain usability.
However, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says the flak only bolsters what they’re about:
“We’re excited about what we’re seeing so far. Even the complaints we’re seeing reinforce the philosophy. The frustrations we’re seeing really validate those changes.”
Here’s the major changes of the update most contentious for frustrated Snapchat users:
- Stories from friends (the Friends tab) and stories from brands/celebrities (the Discover tab) are fully separated in two swipes
- Stories are sorted in the order the app thinks you want to communicate, revamping the Best Friends badge system
- The Discover tab includes subscriptions and curated (meaning Snap-picked) stories
For all my internationals this is what the update looked like, the stories are on the left but they’re huge and basically show you what’s in the story (so no ones gonna actually click and watch it) and they’re not in order their all mixed up, my Snapchat his most of my Snapchat’s pic.twitter.com/sxJFKXi2a7
— Tommy Blake / giveaway in pinned tweet! (@tommyxblake) January 10, 2018
The first thing I notice is a clear, deliberate separation of people you know and people you follow — brands, celebrities, comedians, YouTubers, you name it.
Facebook is also moving in the direction of having this clear separation as well. Social media has always used brand and celebrity interaction as a way to spread usage of platforms: status updates of your favorite actors appeared alongside your friends’ updates. However, it’s also the consumption of news that is affected; publishers will be hit the hardest when it comes to sharing news on Facebook if they do not continue innovating and promoting high-quality content as social media banishes clickbait and video view-grabs as a whole.
What we’re seeing is a clear cultural shift in the social media sphere. There is a shifting focus to make you feel smaller and more part of the world around you, rather than a platform to make you feel like the biggest thing in the world — which, frankly, is what was so subconsciously appealing of social media in the first place. It is not so much of a deliberate ego hit as it is an acknowledgment that trust, verification, locality, and so many other factors go into what is important to you rather than what’s popular at the moment.
This ties into another facet of Snapchat’s changes: the usage of artificial intelligence — more aptly machine learning — to determine what is important to the world around you. The app, over time, will learn what you like watching and who you communicate with most. I surmise it doesn’t stop there. I’m sure the app also determines these behaviors based on days, times, and locations as well. If you only send Snaps to your colleague while you’re at work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the app will probably give you that coworker’s Bitmoji at the top of the list during those hours while you’re at your office.
With Facebook returning the power to local news in its feeds and Snapchat localizing your experience, we will probably see more social media platforms go in the direction of joining the world around you through its tools rather than escape from reality. Let’s see if that ends up the case.
Questions to Ask
- What does separating branded content from the rest of the users say about how we use social media?
- Who would this separation most affect?
- Should publications and brands adapt to this new separation by establishing a more traditional style of relationship between readers and organization? Or should these companies push against the tide and continue a “friend-like” relationship? What do you think the future will be like?
- Have users gotten used to the relationship with brands, celebrities, and publications to a point that Snapchat’s major update will flock users elsewhere, or will they learn and adapt the new style?