Snap is struggling. Snapchat may have 178 million daily users, but its growth has plateaued while its competitor Instagram continues to expand. As Snap’s stock sinks, the company is trying to address its growth problem. For instance, it has even given up the esoteric, speakeasy-style interface that millennials adored and adopted a more conventional approach to UX that would be more intuitive for anyone to use–especially people over 34, the company hopes.
Now, Snap has announced it will go even further to woo the masses: The company is going to open up the “Discover” contents of its app, even to people who don’t use Snapchat. Starting today, you will be able to share many Snapchat Stories to external social media platforms with a link. On Twitter, that means Snap videos will play natively, right inside the Twitter feed. On most other platforms, or even email and texts, snaps will appear as a link, bringing you to Snapchat’s website to watch the clip.
It’s a good move. As a members-only club, Snap grew at a meteoric pace . . . until it didn’t. Everyone who wrote off Snapchat as a sexting app for tweens never had an enticing reason to change those assumptions and download the app.
Truth be told, Snapchat has legitimately good content now, whether it’s produced by professional media companies like the New York Times, CNN, or Buzzfeed, or assembled as “Stories” from many individuals snapping around a single event (like the upcoming Super Bowl). This content gets a lot of eyes within Snapchat, but it inherently can’t go viral beyond Snapchat, nor can its ads go viral beyond Snapchat, because you just can’t share a snap outside of Snapchat. It doesn’t matter how surprising, or important, or hilarious, or timely any single story on Snapchat is to anyone on Facebook; to the average user on Facebook, Snapchat just doesn’t exist–while the shareable media platforms of Instagram and even Twitter do.
Not only is the decision to open up its platform better for Snap, it’s better for Snapchat’s users, along with everyone who doesn’t use the app: Just imagine what society’s first year of the Trump presidency would have been like if the only people who saw his 3 a.m. rantings were logged on to Twitter. (Wonderful, perhaps. Woefully uninformed, definitely.)
For now, Snapchatters won’t be able to share everything. All of their own, personal stories–more than 3.5 billion snaps are produced a day–will still be stuck inside the app. It’s only the studio-produced and crowdsourced pieces around larger events that can be shared out. But I’d bet that this, too, will soon change. Because if it wants to grow, Snap doesn’t need to just recruit more users. It needs to use its users to recruit users. Snapchat needs to exist to all the people who still don’t use it.