By putting best friends first and dividing them from professional publishers, Snapchat hopes to conquer Instagram and revive its own growth with a big redesign that begins rolling out Friday. And it looks great. Snapchat is finally personalizing, highlighting the most relevant content so it’s easier to consume.
“We are separating the social from the media, and taking an important step forward towards strengthening our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in an Axios op-ed this morning. Rather than sorting content by how popular it is with everyone else like Facebook or by reverse chronological order like Snapchat used to, Snap will mold itself to what each person watches most, like Netflix.
Even if Snapchat struggles to add more users amidst Facebook’s competition, its new algorithms could get loyalists spending even more time and seeing more ads in the app. A small percentage of users worldwide on iOS and Android will start getting the new Snapchat on Friday, and it should be rolled out to everyone within a few weeks.
So what exactly is the redesign? It puts all messages and stories from friends to the left of the camera, sorted by who you talk to and view most. It revives auto-advance, ditching the misguided Story playlists, so you can watch everyone’s Stories in a row, but with best friends not people who post the most first. And it puts all premium publishers, pro social media stars you follow, and aggregated stories from search and Snap Map in the Discover section to the right of the camera, curated by humans, and sorted by your past viewing behavior.
“Social media fueled “fake news” because content designed to be shared by friends is not necessarily content designed to deliver accurate information” writes Spiegel. Putting all Discover content through human editorial review could weed out the click-bait disinformation that’s plagued Facebook.
How The New Snapchat Works
Simple: The Camera And Profile
Snapchat still opens to the camera, but now that screen has an icon to open every screen in the app now, so it’s more obvious how to use it. Instead of burying Snap Map behind an awkward and unfamiliar pinch gesture, it opens alongside the Search bar. The profile will now be where you manage and check viewership of what you’ve posted to Stories, public Our Stories, and custom group Stories.
Auto-Advance With Best First: The Friends Page
Snap is mixing Stories and private messages in a single Friends tab. First you’ll see new Snaps and text chats at the top, then Stories from your closest friends you watch and chat with the most, followed by the Stories from the rest of your acquaintances. Every group chat now gets its own Group Story all members can add to.
Back in April, we wrote that Snap was shooting itself in the foot by not putting your best friends’ Stories first like Instagram does, rather than highlighting the most recently posted Stories which emphasized oversharers you might not care about.
Importantly, Snapchat is bringing back Stories auto-advance, but with a twist. Snap used to automatically play the next Story in your list after your last, but Snap moved to a more cumbersome Story playlist in 2010 where you had to manually pick what you wanted to watch. That and Instagram Stories are believed to have sapped view counts, leading many to think Snapchat had lost its mojo.
Now, when you finish watching one Story, Snap will show a brief interstitial screen with the name and a preview of the next friend’s Story. That way you can swipe down to exit out before you watch it (which friends can see in their analytics), or swipe over to skip to the next preview. This combined with the sorting makes it much easier to lean back and watch a ton of friends’ Snaps. It’s the most potent part of the whole redesign, and could seduce users who were losing their best friends’ Stories amongst the noise.
Publishers And Creators: The New Discover
Snapchat now lumps all professional creators, whether they’re big news outlets or social media stars, into one Discover tab to the right of the camera. Humans make sure the content is good enough and accurate, and algorithms decide what you see first based on what you watched before.
You can watch Spiegel explain why Snap is splitting up friends and publishers in this video:
Teen Snap addicts might complain that it’s confusing jumbling all content from friends together. People always recoil to change. But the redesign also makes Snapchat much simpler and more sensible for an adult audience, and lets you squeeze the most value out of the app even if you only open it a few times a day. At half its IPO pop price, Snapchat needs a savior, and may have found it in the algorithm.