If Snpachat’s goal was to create consternation among its users and have them flood Twitter with diatribes and vitriolic comments, then the social media company evidently succeeded with its new app update.
Anger and outrage are often unwarranted when it comes to tech companies updating their apps and software. People tend to overreact, and that’s perfectly fine. Snapchat’s app update, on the other hand, is yet another classic example of a tech company heavily valuing revenue generation over enhancing the user experience. Focusing on revenue-generating features isn’t necessarily a bad thing, primarily when the company is traded on the stock exchange and needs to appease investors continuously. However, with Instagram Stories surpassing Snapchat in the most important metric, daily active users, the last thing Snapchat can afford to do is to lose even more users to its fiercest competitor.
What is the commotion regarding this update? Can it honestly be that bad?
Yes. It’s awful.
Initially announcing the upcoming changes back in October, Snapchat revealed that the app would receive a facelift, which would include adding more algorithms to sort content and the removal of the Stories page. In theory, the app update seems to make sense: prioritizing content based on the people you engage with the most. Other social media platforms have moved in that direction to improve engagement within feeds. However, unlike the other social media platforms, Snapchat is a different beast. The result of Snapchat’s latest update has led to many users begging for the app’s previous interface to come back. Here’s a quick breakdown of why Snapchat’s new update is causing a raucous on Twitter.
Merging Chat and Stories
The most significant update is the removal of the Stories screen, which used to be accessible by navigating to the left screen. The Chat and Stories sections have now been merged to create a brand new Friends screen, which exhibits friends based on Snapchat’s new fancy algorithm, likely sorting friends based on engagement rates. Here is why this is problematic:
Stories are not in chronological order anymore.
Not being able to view content in chronological order might be the most frustrating aspect of the new mobile app update. Even though it makes sense that Snapchat would list friends based on an algorithm, just like every other social media platform, the entertaining aspect of viewing content in order of recency is long gone. Snapchat was distinct from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter due to not having an algorithm for sorting Stories. The usage of algorithms among Snapchat’s competitors make sense due to the plethora of content available on those platforms. Additionally, posts published on Facebook and Twitter, for example, are not ephemeral and can be viewed at a later date. The beauty of Snapchat and Instagram Stories is that users can see what their friends and brands have published over the past 24 hours, giving them a limited opportunity to view photos/videos before they disappear forever. By sorting time-sensitive content according to an algorithm based on engagement, it will only increase the chances of burying Snaps beneath a list of temporarily inactive users.
The removal of auto-advancing through Snaps has also adversely affected the user experience. Rather than letting users watch several Stories in a row, the app now asks users to tap the screen to watch the next Story. The logic behind this particular update may be to ensure that users don’t view Stories from people they do not care about, but it just makes the app less fluid and annoying for everyone in the end. Boo-urns.
A Brand New Discover Tab
The Discover Page, which used to be a section that featured content from select media partners, is now an entire page dedicated to content from publishers, celebrities, and more.
Why is this problematic for users?
Well, to be frank, I enjoyed viewing Snaps from Gary Vaynerchuk and The White Moose Café alongside the Snaps from my friends. The seamless transition from watching drunken videos from my friends to motivational rants from Gary Vaynerchuk made Snapchat quite enjoyable. However, Snapchat has now separated friends from brand accounts, filling up the Discover section with a bunch of content that users may not want to view. I couldn’t care less about “3rd Wheeling: It’s a Lifestyle,” and whoever Sydney Maler is (apologies to Sydney — you may be an awesome person, but my time is limited).
It makes sense why Snapchat would pursue this direction and dedicate more real estate to its biggest influencers and notable brands. The parent company, Snap, needs to continue to increase revenue generation from its flagship product. To do so, providing celebrities, influencers, and brands more opportunities to interact with users is essential. However, giving brands more exposure should have been done without compromising the core feature of the app. Sadly, the new update has created the digital equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, and quite frankly, Mary Shelly’s version of the creature is far more eloquent and thought-out than Snapchat’s new configuration.
Hey old man — stop crying. People will still use Snapchat, right?
First of all, I’m not old yet (not even 30 – huzzah!). Secondly….it depends. Once the dust settles and users become acclimated to the new layout, there’s bound to be far fewer complaints. That said, Snapchat has already lost a considerable amount of momentum due to Instagram blatantly replicating Snapchat Stories within its environment. Considering users have migrated en masse to Facebook’s prized acquisition, Snapchat needs to focus on retaining users rather than alienating them.
TL;DR version: Snapchat’s new app update sucks.