Yesterday was a huge day for Snapchat — and its bank account’s future — with the launch of Discover, its new media channel that brings users articles, videos, and other content from its partner publishers.
While this is a huge deal for the ephemeral mobile app’s monetization strategy, and much of everyone’s attention was on the app’s Discover section, we noticed a couple of other changes in the app. They’re much more subtle than the shiny new content tab, and yet definitely worthy of attention and a few words from us.
Finally, real chat
When Snapchat first introduced the capability to send a text-based message, back in May, I was ecstatic. Finally, Snapchat was listening to my wishes and incorporating the one feature I’d always said Facebook’s failed clone, Poke, had over it. Sometimes, you don’t want to snap a photo or shoot some video. Sometimes, you just want words.
Yesterday’s app update slightly tweaked that feature: You no longer need to have a previous photo- or video-based interaction with someone (housed in your activity feed) in order to send them an ephemeral chat. Now you can open the chat tab, and start typing away.
You see, at the time, Snapchat was pretty clear about still wanting users to communicate through photos and videos, not text. Chat had been a complementary, or auxiliary form of communication so far, but the app’s new update lets go of that. Go ahead and send those disappearing text messages now — and feel more “private” than when using other services.
That’s a lot of white space
Yesterday’s update also included a nifty new way to add friends: You point your camera toward another user’s personal QR code (found in their app’s profile section), and Snapchat detects and adds them to your friends’ list. Turns out, Snapchat’s quiet acquisition of Scan.me is behind this feature.
And then you go to the “Add Friends” page, and find two options — adding by username, and adding from your phone’s contacts — and a lot of white space. A lot of it, even despite the colorful illustration Snapchat slapped on there in a way that looks like … filler.
This might all be speculation and wishful thinking, but what if the company were planning on adding more to this section? You could have an option to add celebrities or brands to receive their snaps and check out their stories. You could look through a list of nearby users — a handy option if you’re at a party, for example.
And you could also swiftly subscribe to premium media content from the new Discover section. Remember Snapcash? Yeah, that would be a perfect way to let you tap a button and trade a few dollars for more media content.
Your daily habit
It’s no secret that Snapchat has bigger ambitions than just being that silly app 13 year olds are turning to as they run as fast as they can from Facebook (not true, but we’ll leave that for another time). It did, after all, famously turn down a $3 billion acquisition from Facebook.
And it’s probably because Snapchat wants to take a big, fat bite out of Facebook’s mobile business and eyeballs. For years, Facebook has been working hard to be more than just a way for people to create a profile and stalk each other, and instead be the portal they turn to for everything. Case in point: Facebook Home — literally an attempt to take over your phone.
But if you’re chatting, exchanging photos and videos with friends, and now getting your news and entertainment from Snapchat, why would you need anything else?
Others have already compared Snapchat’s new model to what Yahoo should be (remember the “daily habit” idea?), but we’d argue the lunch money it’s really stealing is Facebook’s. In recently leaked emails, chief executive Evan Spiegel scoffed at Facebook’s ad businesses, arguing that its failure to really anchor big-brand ad dollars — something Spiegel is strategically going after — will cause its demise. The only capability we’ve yet to see is how Snapchat handles the organic distribution of content — sharing articles and clips with friends or followers — but it’s pretty easy to envision how they could implement that.
It’ll be interesting to see just how the young social network and its bold CEO navigate the path ahead.