Snapchat Plans Radical Overhaul to Make Social Platform Easier to Understand

Longtime Snapchat users should prepare themselves for a radical overhaul of the way the mobile app works, based on comments made by Snap CEO Evan Spiegel in his earnings letter to investors on Tuesday.

With the company falling short of lowered projections for growth, Snap put much of the blame on the fact that the social platform is simply a mystery to outsiders. “One thing we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use,” wrote Spiegel. “Our team has been working on responding to this feedback.”

Few details were provided on the planned redesign, but Snapchat said it was working on an algorithm to show people a more personalized version of the stories they might want to see.

“We are developing a new solution that provides each of our 178 million daily active users with their own Stories experience,” wrote Spiegel, “leveraging the tremendous benefits of machine learning without compromising the editorial integrity of the Stories platform that we have worked so hard to build.”

Spiegel said that the changes would make it easier for users to see content from people who aren’t their friends, but that private conversations between close friends would remain a bulwark of the app.

The esoteric nature of the social platform has apparently moved Snap to make these drastic changes, but the danger is that it could alienate existing users. However, Spiegel said the company was willing to bear the consequences.

“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” Spiegel said in his prepared remarks to investors. “We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”

Snap’s third quarter revenue was $207.9 million, not the $235.5 million analysts had predicted. Shares fell as much as 22 percent in extended trading as a result, before recovering slightly to trade down 17 percent.

Sales estimates for Snap have been dropping since its March initial public offering, with the company apparently unable to clearly explain to advertisers how Snapchat works, despite providing investors with detailed instructions during its initial PO. The lack of a news feed and no ability to share, like, or comment on posts has apparently proved a stumbling block.

Against this backdrop, Facebook’s habit of copying Snapchat features and building them into its own apps has only weakened the uniqueness of Snap’s offering in the social media landscape – a key factor of the company’s business model. It remains to be seen exactly what a redesign will mean for Snapchat and its users, and no timeline for the rollout has been made public.

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