Snapchat Bites Back

25 May 2017 | Pic PR

Intern Rose takes a look at the changes at Snapchat that have helped maintain its popularity in the face of strong competition...

Since its inception in 2011, Snapchat has done nothing but grow in popularity. It now boasts the impressive figure of 166 million daily active users across the globe.

However, since August of last year, the image messaging app has faced fierce competition from Instagram (and to a far lesser extent, Facebook) after it adopted the popular Stories feature. Stories allow users to create chronological compilations of images and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Naturally, the mimicry of other social media applications has devalued the original appeal of Snapchat, which relies heavily on the millennial demand for visual chat features.

Refusing to die a slow death, Snapchat has recently bitten back with a customised Stories function that allows users to collaborate with their peers. Friends can either invite users from their contact book or acquaintances in their immediate vicinity to contribute to their story. A promotional video featuring a star-studded selection of Victoria’s Secret models illustrates this new feature.

 Most drastically, however, Snapchat has moved away from its trademark feature by allowing users to share images with select friends for an infinite amount of time. Previously, ‘snaps’ sent from one user to another only lasted a maximum of ten seconds.

As shown with the decline of Yik Yak, fundamentally altering the nature of a social media application can prove to be a risky move. The appeal of Yik Yak was originally based on the ability of users in a specific vicinity to post anonymously on the app. This made the app popular in college and university campuses. After the developers removed the anonymous feature in favour of user handles, this led to a swift decline in its popularity. Ultimately, this resulted in the app being rendered defunct in May.

So far, this does not appear to be the case with Snapchat. In fact, the changes it has made reflect the moderately unsettling trend of social media applications merging together. As Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat essentially provide the same service, it remains to be seen when they will become indistinguishable from one another. However, the specific popularity of Instagram among young people also represents a shift into an increasingly visual age. This correlates to the steady popularity of Facebook and Twitter amongst middle-aged and older people. Perhaps we are entering an era in which pictures really can speak a thousand words.