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Snapchat weighs what was once unthinkable: permanent snaps (reuters.com)
97 points by rayvy 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments



Slightly off topic: I've noticed many of my once-prolific snap friends are no longer posting as much, and instead are posting to instagram. Honestly it makes me a little sad, I have a ton of good memories from this app, and Snap in general seems much more concerned with user privacy than instagram and Facebook at large. Here's to hoping they make a comeback in the future!


I've got a similar anecdote: my friends in San Francisco or New York have moved over to Instagram entirely. My friends in the midwest or south (Chicago, Austin) still use Snapchat.

There's probably a network effect — a couple of strong links in the friend group in that city keeps it going. I also wonder if usage in coastal cities is a leading indicator.


Interesting comment. I live in the midwest and all my friends use snapchat.


Snapchat completely blew it with their app update, and Instagram just happened to release stories at exactly the right time to get their fleeing users.


Yea as I can't count how many times I've seen a "stories" feature open on someone's phone and asked "Oh I didn't know Snapchat had that?", only to be told that it was Instagram. Insta ate Snapchat's lunch - pretty brutally.


Gee I can't imagine why the snapchat ethos of burying undocumented but core features deep within the app until they are unlocked by an errant gesture wouldn't be more popular? Time and time again, I question why I would want to be told how to use an app when I could have so much fun making a game of discovery out of it. Really it's probably for the best that these things are provided only to the most prolific and zealous users though. Maybe some day I will be lucky enough to fall on the right side of the A/B testing line and get the good stuff.


It makes me sad too, and I use Instagram and don't like Snapchat. Instagram has focused way too much on competing with Snapchat with "stories". I wish it would stop pushing this feature so hard; it gets in the way of the main photo feed experience for me.


You can mute Stories of individual people 1 at a time but it has helped me. I mute the people who are just overall obnoxious. If they post pictures I still see them.


> Snap in general seems much more concerned with user privacy than instagram and Facebook at large

Wait, is this the same Snap that convinced people to share intimate pictures by making them inaccessible after a short while, but retains the right to store those pictures indefinitely and to use them for other purposes?

(Mostly-but-not-entirely rhetorical question, since I never used it and haven't looked closely into their privacy policies - so I might actually be wrong.)


When Instagram copied Snapchat and released the stories feature, Snapchat should've quickly copied everything else from Instagram (except all the nastiness that Facebook pushes) and offered those as optional...like storing snaps permanently. Snap really missed the boat on this, along with the UI redesign that turned off the core user base.

Instagram is only going to get worse with Mark Zuckerberg pushing it. Snap could still be an alternative if it focuses on what users want and keep what users may not want as optional or as a new app altogether.


I do not know if SnapChat would succeed just by copying some functionality. Snap grew by offering an opportunity to share small, stupid day-to-day moments.

We are curious about what others do. That's why reality shows and gossip magazines were so successful.

But the point is that by introducing Stories, Instagram provided this opportunity to spy on the lives of others. But also the opportunity to build a profile. This is important for anyone who has the ability to entertain others for longer, the influencers. And make others believe they could be that too.

Just saving a snap would not be enough. Snap would have to provide a landing page for each user that could be attractive enough for others to start following it. And some small clips is not so attractive, because you have to wait without doing nothing. In Instagram, in a few second rolling someone feed you would like it or not.

In addition, Instagram's search system improved greatly during this time of competition. While on snapchat is non-existent.


What do users want?


How about working on the unthinkable, which is fixing the impossible to navigate UI?


An interesting 2016 article about Snapchat's confusing UI - "How Snapchat Built a Business By Confusing Olds" [0] and HN discussion [1].

> Compared with Twitter or Facebook, Snapchat can seem almost aggressively user-unfriendly. If you’re new to the app and looking for posts by your kid, your boyfriend, or DJ Khaled, good luck. It’s hard to find somebody without knowing his or her screen name. This is by design. “We’ve made it very hard for parents to embarrass their children,” Spiegel said at a conference in January. “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display.”

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-how-snapchat-built-a...

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11217075


Snapchat ‘16’s UI is much different than Snapchat ‘18.

Snapchat ‘16 was “confusing” because it didn’t hand hold you and a lot of features weee behind invisible swipes. The features were there, it was just hard to realize that they existed.

Snapchat ‘18 isn’t confusing. It’s bad because they de-emphasized everything about why people used the app and instead heavily pushed their own content. It’s practically a different app with a different purpose - it’s a tabloid rag rather than a social network.

Snapchat felt more personal than FB/IG, and I guess Spiegal saw all the celebs using the app and killed the goose trying to monetize that.


Please do not criticize the Gam-i-fied(TM) UI. Discovering core features is so fun! Here is a trophy for your unwavering loyalty!


Is that really what they’re doing or just sarcasm? (I’ve never used Snapchat)


That is really what they do. Certain actions (screenshots, video, etc) are rewarded with trophies accessible in the app.


The whole concept of fleeting pictures is designed to make you addicted, I refuse to get on board because I know I'll get sucked right in.


Or fixing their Android app and making it not lag/softbrick my camera?


Are they still doing the thing where instead of taking a photo it takes a screenshot of the display?


160M daily active users might beg to differ.

Otherwise, I (xennial) tried it twice and found the UI rather confusing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapchat#Growth


Well, I mean, Tumblr has basically no navigation between blogs on the desktop, and that didn't stop it.


I think Tumblr might be one of the worst examples you could cite if you're talking about successful social networks. Especially in 2019.


> As of January 2016, the website had 555 million monthly visitors. The number of blog posts each day peaked at over 100 million in early 2014.

Yah, not successful at all.


Commercially, no, not at all. Snapchat looks successful too if all you're checking is MAU. And yet the company has been struggling constantly since it went public.

In the context of valuation and business decisions, it turns out having a lot of users isn't enough. If it was, Snapchat wouldn't be in trouble and we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

As a further point, note that you're citing 2014 and 2016 figures, and I did say, "especially in 2019." Yahoo never recouped its acquisition price from Tumblr.


That's done on purpose, to avoid what happened to Facebook: swarmed by old people, and then deemed uncool. Snapchat is teen territory.


Surely their advertising target value is next to nothing, what with no income


If personal income mattered, then Saturday morning cartoons would never have been a thing. (they can still pester their parents)


I guess that gets rid of the generation that wants to install new social media apps but doesn't know how to google for things.

.... I don't know that thats really a generation.


It's not like there's a big divide in generations... you go to a high school, there's people in an age range, and you can very well teach someone who is one year younger than you how to use something. Rinse and repeat.


I don’t believe that is the common usage of the term generation.

A generation typically involves a period of time at least as long as the organism takes to reach sexual reproductive age.


You are right, I completely misunderstood what he meant.


> impossible to navigate

It is depressing to me how low the bar is for our ability to learn an application. If the UI has more than a single list or button, it becomes "impossible to navigate". There was a time when users would expect some time getting to know their application and even, dare I say, read a guide or manual! Sometimes extremely powerful, creative, and useful tools will have a learning curve. Snap could offer some amazing capabilities, but because of this "simple is everything" mindset, they will face outrage if they expose anything beyond message passing.


There is a big difference between a complex UI on a complex application and an unintuitive UI on what should be very simple.

It is completely nonsensical how Snapchat works. You have to swipe every which way and there's no clues when to swipe where. You just have to memorize the magical incantation to do what you want through trial and error.

We as a society have built up a fantastic 'language' of UI. We know what buttons and menus, etc do. Snapchat throws away all the ways you want to intuitively navigate and give you no clues about what to do instead.


I've only dipped my toe into Snapchat a few times, but you are spot on with your description of the UI.

However, I think your description also fits CLI's which has always led me to wonder if maybe Snapchat's UI is really a way forward as a "native mobile" CLI of a sort.

We're already seeing things like pinch-to-zoom, swipe to move next, etc. being taken and recombined for all sorts of apps.


The CLI is self-documenting. xyz --help, -h or --help | grep 'abc', along with man xyz gives you everything you need to know.

This is probably one of my favorite things about the CLI versus GUI. There is nothing worse than working with cli apps that have weird incantations.


Maybe it's been a while since you used a CLI when you weren't intimately familiar with it, or maybe it has been a while since you used an application that deviates from the -h standard (or that doesn't provide a manpage, opting instead for info), but I'd really hesitate to call this process self-documenting for anyone that doesn't already know the tool.

I've been using command-line interfaces for a pretty long time now, and I'm incredibly thankful that these days I can look something up on the internet and generally find a list of some examples on how to use things. Man pages are generally incredibly verbose in all the wrong ways (far too much information, far too little that you actually want) and the -h switch at best gives you some flags and descriptions that are fundamentally too short to teach you anything useful. There is no real global standard for what kind of flags or inputs do what things (for example, far from every program with a CLI interface will actually accept "-" as an input file even though that's one of those things a lot of people use and should therefore be pretty obvious), further obfuscating the core workings of anything you might be using.


Remember these services are not designed to fulfill a previously existing need. They are designed to become addictive and create a new need, which they then have a monopoly on fulfilling.

The applications you are thinking of served preexisting needs, so it required more upfront complexity.

Something like Snapchat's UI does not have the burden of fulfilling a previously existing need. That is, until they redesigned it. Then suddenly, the new UI had to provide for a pre-existing need and as an obvious consequence, has been more difficult for both new and existing users.


My hypothesis around this was younger (or curious people) would just "get" the UI and the older people won't be on the app or not be as active.


indeed. Kids would learn the whole coreutils flags by heart if that's what it takes to see some bikini shots


Making a UI that requires reading a guide or manual necessary is kind of depressing as well, to be honest.


Can you tell me without searching how to find a list of everybody you have added as a friend on Snapchat? You are free to look at the app itself.


You shouldn’t have to be a power user in order to use an application. There are no clues what do other than trial and error


The thing is, their old UI was near perfect. They ended up pulling a Digg v3.0


How about returning localized stories specific to cities and college campuses? That feature was so important to so many people, and it was just suddenly killed last year.


That's still a thing via the map. You can also pay for a location based filter & start a similar story as well. Ideal for weddings.


I bought my first personal filter/lenses for a friends wedding. It was a big hit, to the point that nearly any large gathering someone will snapcash/venmo/applepay/payment method du jour me a few bucks to make a filter or lens and story for their event (christmas party, baby shower, housewarming, cocktail party, etc...)


snapchat leadership is lost


This reminds me a bit of how OkCupid basically turned their app into Tinder: got rid of screen names, swipe to match, and can only message users you’ve mutually matched with. Maybe all dating apps will eventually become Tinder, and all photo-oriented messaging apps will turn into some hybrid of Snap/Insta.


By the way, OkCupid and Tinger, and PlentyOfFish some other belong to the same group/company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Match_Group

It's likely that they making all apps alike to match most grossing.


I'm still surprised people think their snaps can't be scraped and saved forever.


i believe the other party will be informed by snapchat if you took a screeshot of it.


By the way that's a really horrible feature of Android (don't know about iOS). I never gave permission to any app that it could be aware of my screenshots, and yet one of my contacts asked why I screenshotted their message. That's not the business of apps to know, at least without permission first.


I'm not certain with regards to Snap, but I suspect either iOS, or an enterprising app developer, has a function to block screenshots from working.

Specifically when using the Sky Go app for streaming TV, screenshots come out black.


You can take screenshots without the phone knowing (or at least the app knowing) with a app [On an unrooted android phone]


Which app?


It's called private screenshots or something to that effect, basically it adds a button to the GUI above the app.


Why are you screenshotting a contact's message? Android actually can block screenshots of copyright content as well now.


Why does it matter why I was screenshotting someone's message? It's on my phone. Screenshots are a function of the OS, and not the application's business.


Could it be argued that the content of any message I send directly to you is my creative work or intellectual property?

Is screenshotting a message proof of intent to reproduce?

If I don’t use an ephemeral messaging service am I giving implied consent to reproduce?


They go out of their way to detect root and block the app on Android, but I'm sure there are counter counter measures regardless.


Yeah, airplane mode, make the API call fail, reset local state before re-connecting.


Plus, the impossible to plug analog hole... taking a picture of your phone with another camera.


but you take a quality loss...


Log in on a different device and move the token to a rooted device. The check is only run on login IIRC.


Did they ever plug the adb screen capture hole?


I typically just take a photo with another device when I need a screen shot of an app with screenshot protection.


Ok, then take a photo of your screen with another camera.


All this confirms to me, is the fact that the app space is mainly a battleground for highly evolved corporate entities to fight for attention and profit.

Being unique or solving a purpose that's genuinely useful to its audience, doesn't seem to be a primary aim of businesses like Snapchat.


- Snapchat didn't exist until 7 years ago, so not sure they qualify as a highly evolved corporate entity

- Snapchat solves a unique communication problem (the desire to express yourself without it living forever). It still solves this problem today, however so do a lot of competitors.


I _think_ they mean that it's the entities that post on the platform that are "highly evolved corporate entities fighting for attention".


That's a good point, most of the social media platforms have parts that are essentially lawless advertising space.


they qualify as a highly evolved corporate entity

Why not? You’re a highly evolved biological entity and you were from the very moment you were conceived! Evolution refers to your ancestors, not to any individual.


Sure, but what does that actually mean?


Can it solve a problem for which people are willing to pay? If not, advertising is the only source of revenue, which means they have to fight for people's attention.


I know an analyst at SnapChat, it's not a well managed company at all apparently. The way it was described to me was that a manager of a very popular lemonade stand suddenly is put in charge of Pepsi. They have very talented engineers, and analysts, but the glue to connect the employees - management, is so lacking that it's a shit show

Due to a lack of overall direction and a common goal, teams are isolated in their own silos (which they're good at), but there's no cohesion. At the moment the company is reactive to competitors, not innovative and a leader in the space like what you could argue they were a few years ago


If your valuation is too high as a company you have no other choice but to aim for the mass market.

A unicorn is not supposed to fill a niche, it’s supposed to fight till death.


The only axioma that gives you the best perspective of the business world is that the primary aim of ANY business is ALWAYS the profit. Even if they have the most melting motto or have the most sentimental text bullshit on their website, they all have a purpose.

And not saying that this is wrong. After all this is how the society works.


Sounds like you've never met a brick and mortar small business owner.


Well my grand-mother has an account on Snap and she keeps complaining she cannot find the account of Donald.


Snap is only on my phone because my phone storage fills up sometimes and I need space to save photos or videos.

I don't look at anyone's stories anymore. The people I care about, I make time to hang out with them in person or call them when I miss them. You know, like people used to before 2010.

There I said it. I know I'm not alone.


> I don't look at anyone's stories anymore.

I don't know about anyone else, but posting a story is the only guaranteed way to ensure I don't even check it.

That applies equally to Snapchat, instagram and facebook.

As a means of communication, it just doesn't work for me.


I used to if it was a girl I was talking to or while my friends traveled. I just don't care anymore. Posting stories and checking who saw it, seeing others is a time waster.

I love my work, my hobbies, solitude, family, analog lifestyle as much as possible.


The snaps have ALWAYS been permanent. They are just not shown on your phone after a certain window of time.


No, Snapchat said they get deleted from their servers after 30 days, and that was after law enforcement got their panties in a knot. Unless youre saying Snapchat is lying about that.


HN claims that Facebook just bold-face lies about <topic of the day> all the time, are we not going to hold Snapchat to the same scrutiny?


Except this what separated them from the competition. It would be like if Apple confessed iOS was Android with different graphics. Also Snapchat can mine your data without keeping your pictures forever and ever.


Please someone enlighten me what the uniqueness of Snap(chat) then will be again?


So the primary purpose of Snapchat, sharing nudity temporarily is now permanent?


Worse. From the article:

The company is also weighing an option to reveal the identities of Snapchat users who make public posts

Of course, the irony is not lost on Reuters because just a few lines after that:

Snap is carefully weighing the privacy, technical and legal considerations of revealing user identities on public posts

So the way I read this is that Snap are giving up their transient nature and planning to become yet another platform for industrial grade stalking.


not sure why all the snapchat hate, my friends all use it as our go to messaging app. i dont need years of inane conversations all archived for all time on my phone, also they have the best sticker emojis


That's one of the main uses my friends groups have evolved to.

At most saving the last 24 hours is just fine. I don't really see a need to keep everything forever and ever


Its funny that that's basically the opposite of what made Gmail successful - that you never have to delete any email.


In today's news: people who take photos expect their photos to last more than a few minutes.

There is no reason not to skip to the next photo sharing platform because nothing is saved. It's a platform without a platform effect.


Maybe it'll go the way of the Facebook dislike button.


I never got snapchat. For all but a few odd use cases, expiring messages/posts seem to me to be strictly worse than permanently hosted ones.


I communicate with pictures a lot (gifs, photos/snaps, bitmojis, etc...) A friend asks "whatcha doin?" it's fun to reply with a quick snap of what I'm doing. It almost makes you feel a bit "closer" to other people when you can get a quick glimpse into their world. A quick snap of a friend cooking is greater than a simple "I'm cooking" text. But I don't necessarily need or want to save that image (or really even that text)


I don't know if I'd call sending nudes an "odd use-case", but that's what I've always understood to be Snapchat's primary use-case.

(The fact that temporary photos can be quite easily screenshotted, photographed etc. is an unfortunate limitation, and something which many users may not realize)


I do think it shifts norms, which is important.

There are places where it's legal to record your conversations when you go out with friends, and even whether it's legal or not it's incredibly easy to do. But good luck having much of a social life or even getting served in the local bar if people know you're always wearing a wire.


> I do think it shifts norms, which is important.

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand. What, exactly, shifts norms?


next quarter: Snapcoin


All social apps will sooner or later have a payment story to stay relevant - see WeChat.


But: "does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad." -- Kylie Jenner, moments before she caused Snapchat's stock price to tank.


Still surprised they have not bothered to address the UI redesign that many complain about.




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