Yorktown Sentry

Dear Snapchat: If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It.

A+little+more+than+3+weeks+ago%2C+Snapchat+rolled+out+a+controversial+new+update.
A little more than 3 weeks ago, Snapchat rolled out a controversial new update.

A little more than 3 weeks ago, Snapchat rolled out a controversial new update.

Lindsey Bowers

Lindsey Bowers

A little more than 3 weeks ago, Snapchat rolled out a controversial new update.

Nathan Dent, Sentry Staff Reporter

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A little more than 3 weeks ago, Snapchat, the popular social media app which allows users to send pictures, videos and messages which disappear after being opened, rolled out a controversial new update which has rubbed many users the wrong way. In an effort to make the app easier for new users to understand, Snapchat has redesigned much of its original layout, merging its “Stories” function with its “Chat” function, and re-organizing the way that its users see content through the “Discover” function, creating a new and fairly confusing interface for the app’s more seasoned users. Outcry among users has been quite vocal, with Twitter erupting into a firestorm of 280-character anti-Snapchat rants. Already, a petition demanding that Snapchat revert back to its previous user interface has garnered the signatures of more than 1,200,000 frustrated users at the time of this article’s publication; a number that will likely keep climbing.

Frankly, the outrage of Snapchat users around the world is justified. While Snapchat may have intentions to make the app more accessible for some users, the new interface that it introduced has created a world of difficulty for users accustomed to older versions of the app. By merging the story interface with the chat interface, Snapchat has made the simple act of viewing a friend’s story more confusing than ever. Replying to a snap, which was once the core feature of the app, has become a painstaking task, as messages, for no apparent reason, are now sometimes brought to the bottom of the chat screen after being opened, causing the user to have to scroll to the bottom of the screen just to send a reply. Viewing content through Snapchat’s “Discover” feature has become unnecessarily difficult, as simply locating the Snapchat editions of publications such as Vice or Mashable within the newfound massive throng of “recommended stories” can now take ungodly amounts of time. With all of the new changes and difficulties that have been introduced in the new update, Snapchat feels like a poorly designed and entirely different app.

However, the wave of poor decisions on Snapchat’s part does not stop there. In a bizarre twist of irony, Snapchat, in an even more recent update, seems to have taken a half-stab at copying a distinct feature of Instagram Stories. With this new feature, Snapchat users are able to add multiple text boxes to a snap, also having the ability to add different fonts or effects to the text. This update came shortly after Instagram Stories, which already allowed multiple text boxes, released a feature that allowed different fonts to be used in a user’s Instagram Stories post. Stranger yet, one of the new fonts that Snapchat has introduced seems to allow text to mimic the “neon” effect of one of the pens that can be used in Instagram Stories.

The irony here is hard to miss. For those who are unfamiliar with the longstanding (albeit quiet) feud between Snapchat and Instagram, it’s not very difficult to follow. Snapchat was launched only 11 months after Instagram, and the two have been in a constant popularity struggle ever since. This sense of competition continued to breed innovation and ingenuity from both sides, until ultimately, Instagram began to take the low road in August 2016 by launching Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories was (and still is) a shameless knockoff of Snapchat’s iconic “Stories” feature, complete with face-filters and the Snapchat-esque ability to send picture messages directly to friends instead of posting to a user’s story. Nonetheless, Snapchat did not seem to retaliate. They took the high road, and continued to find ways to innovate and come up with new features while Instagram took notes and found ways to adjust Instagram Stories in an effort to avoid fading into irrelevance. For all the time that Snapchat and Instagram stories have coexisted, until now, it’s been Instagram copying Snapchat, and not the other way around.

Snapchat’s new interface redesign, coupled with this strange and ironic new feature, goes to show that Snapchat is already beginning to lose touch with its users. Instead of delivering users features they want, such as a better sticker tool or bringing back the “best friends” feature, Snapchat gave users a complete and total overhaul of features that were perfectly fine as they were, creating confusion and frustration galore. When users voiced their profound discontent with the new update, Snapchat didn’t try to meet them in the middle or address their concerns. Instead, it threw a last-minute, ill-conceived, unoriginal and poorly made feature at them, hoping that a shiny new update would distract its user base from whatever had been bothering them before. Uncharacteristically of Snapchat, the new text feature seems incredibly poorly made, with some fonts looking like they could have been made in thirty seconds in MS Paint.

At least temporarily, Snapchat seems to have dug its own grave. It is likely that one of the reasons which led to Snapchat rolling out its new update was a concern over the rapidly growing daily active user base of Instagram Stories versus the now relatively static daily active user base of Snapchat. While Snapchat’s new update intended to bring in new users, it has backfired by unintentionally providing push factors for many Snapchat users to begin migrating to Instagram Stories. Ironically, many are beginning to see Snapchat’s many newfound bells and whistles as being too confusing or distracting for their taste. For many, it seems as though Instagram is now able to offer an environment that’s more authentically Snapchat-y than Snapchat itself. The situation for Snapchat is now beginning to look dire, as Instagram Stories has reached an average of 300 million daily active users, with Snapchat reporting an average of 187 million daily active users in the fourth quarter of 2017; and the new update certainly is not helping Snapchat raise that number.

When it comes to expressing displeasure with the update, however, Snapchat users have certainly not been left voiceless. Many users have taken to Twitter to make their opinions of the new update heard, and their remarks likely are not falling upon deaf ears. Many Snapchat users use Snapchat in part to keep up with their favorite celebrities, and said celebrities have recently proven themselves to have tremendous power in influencing Snapchat’s corporate success; one example is  Kylie Jenner, whose Feb 25th anti-update tweet caused the market value of Snap Inc. (Snapchat’s parent company) to drop $1.3 billion in one day.  

Ordinary users have also been able to make their voice heard. Recently, a Snapchat user by the name of Nic Rumsey began a petition on Change.org in an effort to convince Snapchat to revert to a pre-update interface. The petition has since garnered upwards of 1,200,000 signatures, eventually prompting a response from Snap Inc. on Feb 20th. Snap Inc.’s response reads:

To Nic and all of the Snapchatters who signed this petition,

We hear you, and appreciate that you took the time to let us know how you feel. We completely understand the new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.

By putting everything from your friends in one place, our goal was to make it easier to connect with the people you care about most. The new Friends page will adapt to you and get smarter over time, reflecting who you’re most likely to be Snapping with at that moment. This same personalization is also true of the new Discover, which will adapt to you the more that you use it.

Beginning soon on iOS, and with Android in the coming weeks, we are introducing tabs in Friends and Discover, which will make it easier to find the Stories that you want, when you want them. Once you receive the update, you’ll be able to sort things like Stories, Group Chats, and Subscriptions, allowing you to further customize your own experience on the app.

This new foundation is just the beginning, and we will always listen closely to find new ways to make the service better for everyone. We are grateful for your enthusiasm and creativity. We are very excited for what’s ahead.

Love,

Team Snapchat

While Snap Inc.’s response to the petition seems to be genuine and whole-hearted, it does not seem like Snapchat will actually give in to the desires of their petitioners. Despite celebrity outcry, falling stock price and an outraged 1,200,000+ users, Snapchat seems to be set in its belief that the new update should stay in place. In a statement issued on Twitter, Snapchat mentioned how it has seen that with any major update, users usually just need time to adjust before they can begin to enjoy the new features to their full extent. While Snapchat seems to be compromising by adding tabs in the Friends and Discover sections, the tradition of not looking back is still firmly rooted in Silicon Valley corporate culture. Back in June of 2016, when Instagram switched users’ timelines from being chronological to algorithm-based, many users were outraged, with some even swearing off the app. Even today, many Instagram users express a longing for a chronologically ordered timeline, but Instagram still won’t budge. Similar to what Snapchat expected to see in the wake of its new update, outrage eventually died down, and has settled into a quiet discomfort, with the majority of users finally having embraced new developments in the app.

Nonetheless, moments like these are sad reflections on how Silicon Valley deals with displeasure from users. Instead of catering to their bases, many companies simply do what their engineers think would keep the app new and exciting; often resulting in user interfaces that make sense to software developers and engineers, but make little to no sense to the average user. When consumers express their discontent, instead of making efforts to address user concerns or even meet users in the middle, tech companies and social networks ultimately stay stuck in their ways, expecting their users to eventually learn to live with new updates in a way similar to how a toddler would calm down after throwing a tantrum. As a result, modern social networks like Snapchat and Instagram are slowly but surely digging their own graves; and will one day be replaced by a social network which genuinely caters to its users.

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