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Snapchat Remakes Itself, Splitting the Social From the Media

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in an undated handout image, Snap’s new technology allowing users to place 3-D cartoon images into their pictures and videos with their app, Snapchat. - SNAP, INC. VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Snap, Inc. via The New York Times
  • in an undated handout image, Snap’s new technology allowing users to place 3-D cartoon images into their pictures and videos with their app, Snapchat.

By KATIE BENNER
© 2017 New York Times News Service

Snapchat has long thumbed its nose at social media conventions. The messaging app initially emphasized posts that disappeared rather than remaining permanent. It encouraged users to connect with just a few friends instead of many. And it prized human editing and curation instead of encouraging anybody to post anything.

On Wednesday, its parent company, Snap, continued that unconventional approach, unveiling a redesign that effectively separates social and media into two separate parts of the Snapchat app.

Where users of Facebook see one giant news feed of information, typically determined by what they have liked and what their friends post, Snapchat users will now see a left side of the app that includes chats and stories shared with, or by, their friends. That’s the social part. On the right side, there will be content from publishers, amateur creators, celebrities and stories that Snap curates from user-generated videos and photos. That’s the media part.

“While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves,” Evan Spiegel, Snap’s chief executive, said in a blog post about the redesign, which is to begin rolling out Wednesday and continue through the end of the week.

The redesign is partly born of necessity. Since Snap, which is based in Venice, California, went public in March, its user and revenue numbers have not grown as fast as Wall Street had hoped. That is partially because of Snap’s chief rival, Facebook, which has sought to keep users from turning to Snapchat by copying some of its most popular features.

Snap’s stock has fallen below its initial public offering price, and the company remains unprofitable. Snap delivered a disappointing earnings report this month, causing its stock to plunge even further. Spiegel said on an earnings call with investors that he was redesigning the Snapchat app.

Some things about Snapchat are not changing. For instance, the app still opens to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos and videos with friends.