If you haven’t heard about it yet, you’re either over the age of 35 or living off the grid. On Tuesday, Snapchat rolled out major updates to the popular smartphone app. Changes include a new Discover tab featuring 12 accounts from mainstream media outlets, such as Daily Mail, CNN, Comedy Central, and ESPN, and much to the dismay of many younger users, the discontinuation of the Best Friends feature.
In all likelihood this update comes from Snapchat’s desire to stay relevant in this digital information-seeking era. Other popular social networking apps have already acknowledged these realities of the times, like Facebook and Twitter’s trending stories and hashtags, but until now, Snapchat had stayed true to its roots as a photo-sharing platform. The Discover tab allows users to pick which media moguls’ content they want to view, and by pressing the logo they are shown a video or short articles provided by each company, and in the true essence of Snapchat, the content disappears after 24 hours and is replaced by more up-to-date stories. Before, once users viewed Snapchats sent to them and the stories of their friends, there was nothing left to do on the app as far as new entertainments, thus time spent on the app is far less than on say Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Buzzfeed. The Discover tab will allow us to use Snapchat as a news source as well as a communication app.
It’s an interesting move for Snapchat to make after establishing itself as a largely person-to-person communication network. The first steps it made toward a more mass communications outlook was when it rolled out the Live Our Story component that documented various events and festivals by users for the viewing of the entire Snapchat community.
Caroline Coggins, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and avid Snapchat user has been disappointed by the app’s new update. She said she has been using Snapchat for almost three years now, and in many ways, the app has taken the place of her iMessage or text messaging service.
“It’s a lot easier to send someone a Snapchat. With texting, people don’t respond right away, but when you have a picture to grab your attention that then disappears, people are much more likely to respond quickly.”
She feels that the update takes away from what Snapchat has established itself as in the social networking world. The name really says it all – break it down, and you get the idea. ‘Snap,’ which hints at the photo aspect and ‘chat’ referring to the communication aspect on a one-on-one or one-to-few basis. Now with the introduction of the Discover tab, Snapchat becomes more indistinguishable from every other popular social media app.
“For example, some of the Discover buttons are interesting, like National Geographic’s little videos, but others are so bulky,” Coggins said. “The People one showed me a few articles, and while they were interesting, I didn’t like how I had to sit and scroll through things on my Snapchat. Snapchat is for pictures, not short essays.”
There are other problems with the updated design of the app. It used to be that users swiped left or right to switch between Snapchat’s three screens. Now, sliding a finger down drags down a new Snapchat “home-like” page, from which you leave by swiping up on the screen. There are already many complaints from users that in trying to swipe right or left to access other screens, they accidentally swipe slightly down as well, which activates the new home screen. Many times when users swipe up to then leave the screen, they in fact accidentally open the iPhone’s Control Center feature instead of returning to one of the original Snapchat screens.
It seems that Snapchat’s huge moves this week to remain current alongside other social media platforms will not be as well received as the app’s developers had hoped. They are trying to make users want to spend more time on the app, it may find that users will remain allegiant to other social media for news consumption and keep Snapchat as a second form of text messaging friends or photo/video sharing with close friends. Essentially, it will be up to users and their habits to see if Snapchat becomes a media sharing powerhouse or the Discover tab fizzles on interest. My guess is the changes will be too much too soon for users, but hey, may the odds be ever in your favor, Snapchat.