Snapchat, which desperately needs to attract more users as its parent company Snap finds itself swirling the drain just eight months post-IPO (it’s fucked), announced in an earnings report earlier this week it is planning a major redesign in an attempt to attract a new demographic (the olds). According to Business Insider, the launch date for Snap’s last-ditch gamble is pretty soon: December 4th.
Per the Business Insider report, sources say that date is the internal target for a redesign that would move around some of the app’s key workings. While the app will still open directly to a camera, it will no longer split direct messages from friends in a “Chat” section accessed from the left side of the screen from the shared “Stories” section on the right. Instead, all content from a Snapchat user’s social network will be accessed from a single point on the left side of the screen.
On the right side, Snapchat will be merging user-crowdsourced video from events with “content produced by Snapchat’s publishing partners like NBC and BuzzFeed” in a section called “Our Stories.” Additionally, the right side of the screen will show videos from verified celebrities. The content displayed in this section will be algorithmically decided to create an “endless” feed, and it’s not clear how that will affect the 70-plus media companies currently found in the app’s “Discover” section.
We’ve reached out to Snap for confirmation that Business Insider’s account is indeed what the redesign will really entail, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.
The proposed changes do seem user-friendly, and they certainly show that Snap wants to make sure users have the opportunity to access a wider variety of content more easily. But at the end of the day, Snapchat originated as a cool way to trade secret messages and dick pics with friends and it’s not clear how many of its 178 million current users will respond to the changes. Many of the company’s current woes seem to stem from its failure to break into a mass-media market where its competitors have most of the advantages and are stealing its ideas.
It’s not clear that the problem is really Snapchat’s layout, but that, well, everything it does can be done on platforms with much larger market share. Whatever novelty Snapchat has left has gradually diminished as it’s aged or sought out ill-advised ways to push ads, and almost all of its features have been appropriated by larger competitors like Facebook and particularly Facebook’s subsidiary Instagram. Snapchat has also blown lots of money on things like Snap Spectacles, which it produced in heavy excess of demand to a loss of at least $39.9 million (in the larger context of a last-quarter loss of $443 million). Its experiments with augmented reality have been cool, but haven’t been revolutionary or changed how people use the app.
But as the company made clear in its earnings report, taking the risk of a redesign is necessary, because otherwise the whole business is likely to come crashing down.
“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term,” Snap wrote. “... We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial longterm benefits to our business.”