Snapchat plans to move away from its most defining characteristic and make other changes that should broaden its appeal but still satisfy existing users. In the future, the disappearing or ephemeral nature of "snaps" may not be the difference maker for Snapchat.
Fleeting content and messages will continue to be the default setting, but Snapchat users will soon be able to store and archive their snaps within the app for future viewing and sharing. The new Snapchat Memories is an evolutionary change for a service that has always focused on living in the moment.
Snapchat CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel has consistently described Snapchat as a product that's so unique it's hard to understand until you use it. "Over the last 10 years all of our conversations have been stored," Spiegel said at last year's Cannes Lions advertising festival, according to British advertising-news site Campaign. "The idea behind Snapchat was to try and restore the immediacy of the conversation."
Memories doesn't appear to jive with the company's past vision for raw and unfiltered snaps, but the new feature probably won't alienate many current Snapchat users, according to Adam Kleinberg, CEO of advertising agency Traction. Snapchat hasn't hesitated to make major changes to its platform in the past, to follow user behavior, and Memories continues that tradition, he says. "This is just a natural evolution of [Snapchat] continuing to give people what they want and see themselves evolving from the linear utility to a broader media and communications platform."
Snapchat has transitioned from a one-to-one messaging platform to a one-to-many visual communication service that empowers people to control their online personas and manage more curated personal brands, according to Kleinberg. "You see a lot of influencers who used to manage their personal brands on Twitter now using Snapchat to do that."
Ephemerality has been a differentiator for Snapchat, but the company isn't the exclusive purveyor of rapidly fleeting social content, Kleinberg says. "When people put a post on Twitter, it may not technically disappear, but it's just as invisible. Once something goes below my fold on Twitter, which takes an hour, not 24 hours, that tweet becomes invisible anyway. Sure, it's searchable, but who the hell cares about that? Not users."
Snapchat will also make it easier to share images and video stored on phones. The lack of such a feature has "hindered sharing in a lot of instances," Kleinberg says. Last week, for example, when Kleinberg wanted to share something from Traction's 15-year-anniversary party, he had to choose between using Snapchat or his camera app. "Do I want to do this on Snapchat? Or do I want to take it with my camera and have the photo so I can do whatever I want with it?" he says. "Now I don't have to make that choice."
Snapchat Memories may also help attract older users who are accustomed to curating their social identities, but Kleinberg doesn't think that's a motivating factor for the change. "I don't think it's about making the app easier for old people to use," he says. "I think they intentionally don't make it easy for old people to use. The [user interface] is non-intuitive by design, because it makes the platform parent-proof."
Parents may actually use Snapchat more today than ever before, but their kids don't necessarily approve. Nearly a third (30 percent) of Snapchat users between the ages of 13 and 24 said their favorite thing about the service is that their parents don't use it,according to a recent survey commissioned by entertainment publication Variety and conducted by Defy Media.