Unless you have been living under a rock with no service, you have probably heard about Snapchat’s new update.
It wouldn’t be surprising if you heard the backlash before even updating the app.
Snapchat overhauled their interface this month, and the people’s revolt started almost immediately. A Change.org petition to remove the update has nearly one million signatures. A simple Google search for “Snapchat update” will come up with more news concerned with reversing the update than notes about the actual software update itself.
The new update is patently awful for two important reasons — the changed Stories and Discover Page.The most obvious is the new orientation of Snapchat Stories. What used to be an easy way to keep up with your friends’ days is now gone. Stories are hidden among the inbox of new snaps and chats on the left screen, further clogging it up and hiding the stories you would usually care most about. Unless you have exchanged messages with a particular person recently, you will have to scroll through your entire inbox just to find their profile and attached story.
Snapchat was already losing this particular battle, as Instagram Stories surpassed their Snapchat counterparts in usage in August 2017. At this point, it appears as if Snapchat is actively trying to destroy one of the original features that made it so endearing to young users.
Paid stories and advertisements have been infiltrating the Stories screen for a while now, but this new update finished the transformation.
A fully-formed commercial monster has emerged from its cocoon. Snapchat’s Discover page now takes up the entire right screen with corporate content. This is the stuff nobody ever looks at unless they have checked every other corner of social media for some kind of entertainment. I can profess to looking at National Geographic’s update once in a blue moon, and I believe that such a behavior is actually above average consumption of the product. Snapchat’s intention is to transform the Discover screen into a combination of a news and Vine by advertising newsmakers and viral content creators in the same area.
We all know what is going on in the news and lives of celebrities. There are plenty of other platforms that have been dedicated to that purpose since their births. Snapchat is just trying to make a little money off that same impulse.
This won’t work.
While Change.org petitions cannot be taken seriously as fire starters for consistent action, they can be used as gauges of public opinion. The petition to revert Snapchat’s update is in remarkable company when using these petitions as a metric. It is already the third most signed petition in the platform’s history, and the first and second were launched in response to the 2016 presidential election and the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
This movement is nowhere close to those two events in terms of importance, but the outpouring of dissent cannot be ignored. A petition was launched to take down Logan Paul’s YouTube channel after his infamous stunt in Japan’s Suicide Forest, and that hasn’t surpassed 625,000 signatures despite being published Jan. 2.
Snapchat cannot be faulted for trying to make money. It has struggled with profitability and product mishaps for years now, and the company is just starting to right the ship. They beat financial expectations in 2017, but the plan to entice viral content creators through this new app redesign is not going to accomplish anything.
Snapchat cannot afford any missteps, with Facebook copying their every move and Twitter slowly moving toward stability through profitability. Snapchat must address the backlash to this update disaster before too much irreparable damage is done.
Jonah Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jonahpbaker