People don’t like change. This is known. Every update to iOS leads to more whining. Minimal corporate logo tweaks become fiery controversies. But usually, these are temporary problems. They blow over.
In Snapchat’s case, not so much. In response to the company’s recent redesign, there’s now a Change.org petition with more than 1,000,000 signatures and counting that begs Snap to roll back the update (highly unlikely). Why did a seemingly minor design change inspire an internet-wide freakout? I’m here to walk you through the controversy.
I don’t even use Snapchat. What’s going on?
Earlier this month, Snapchat released a redesign to iOS users. Android just got the update too. The app still opens to the camera as it always did. But now, when you swipe left, you go into a feed of friends (people who you follow who also follow you back). When you swipe right, you go into a feed of media on the Discover page.
That seems minor, but the friends’ list has changed in a significant way. All of your friends’ self-destructing stories are now intermixed with direct messages. If you preferred to use Snapchat for messaging one person at a time, and building up those addictive Snap Streaks (the rewards for snapping someone every day for a long time), now you have to wade through all of the story updates to do so. In other words, all your friends’ content has been blended into a single big smoothie full of other content.
The redesign made one other important update, too. The feed went algorithmic. That means that rather than simply seeing the newest story or message, Snapchat is trying to determine the thing you most want to see and putting that up top, regardless of how old it is.
Ugh, like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook do! That stinks.
Yep, just like that. Though Snap claims your feed will be more personalized to your interests and behavior over time than we see on those other social media platforms. So if you don’t watch stories and prefer to simply message, the messages should float to the top eventually. Time will tell if that’s really the case.
So people are mad that their stories and messages have been mixed together, and they’re no longer chronological. That’s it?
Mostly. Well, probably. But I have another theory. A conspiracy theory.
There was one other change to friend feeds I didn’t mention. Before, if you followed someone and they didn’t follow back, they were still functionally your “friend” and you’d see their snaps. Now, if you follow someone who doesn’t follow you back, their updates might be kicked to the Discover page–basically, the other half of Snapchat’s app. That’s the part of the app with CNN and BuzzFeed.
Who cares? Don’t your friends follow you back, anyway?
A lot of your real friends do, sure.
But you know who doesn’t? Celebrities.
What do you mean?
Literally, Chrissy Teigen, Kylie Jenner, and other major Snap influencers are no longer your friends if they don’t follow you back.
Jenner shed a tear emoji at the update. Teigen went further. “I liked that you guys felt like we were friends,” she tweeted. “I’m sad it doesn’t feel like that anymore. How many people have to hate an update for it to be reconsidered?”
I’m seeing this same comment so often. I liked that you guys felt like we were friends. I’m sad it doesn’t feel like that anymore. How many people have to hate an update for it to be reconsidered? https://t.co/PI7OAf9Qlg
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 9, 2018
But I feel like Chrissy Teigen is my friend!
I know, she’s so good on social media. She is all of us.
Why would a celebrity care if we’re not friends?
I can’t speak for Chrissy (I’m just gonna break journalistic protocol and call her by her first name rather than her last, since we’re friends) but some influencers make a lot of money by advertising products on Snapchat. Friends’ content is almost undeniably the most successful content on the platform–though this is hard to prove since Snap doesn’t release many metrics.
In the redesigned app, where famous people are no longer technically your “friends,” you might see their [sponsored] updates less because they’ve been moved over to Discover.
I know. But if you indulge my conspiracy theory for one more moment? Because Snap also injects its own ads into Discover, not Friends, it means that Snap can now sell ads that are placed inside Chrissy’s content that have nothing to do with Chrissy’s own sponsors.
Ooohh. But what’s this have to do with all the update outrage?
Look, there’s no doubt about it: People are pissed about their messages and stories being intermixed. They’re upset that the feed is now algorithmic, too. But we’re also seeing influencers–who are suddenly quarantined to have a less intimate conversation with their followers, who are suddenly subject to hosting ads outside of their own control–riling up their millions of loyal meal tickets to pile on the company.
Are everyday people really this upset because of the design itself, or are people really this upset because they’re a little annoyed and influencers they admire are stoking the flames?
But maybe this update just sucks.
Maybe! But let’s just remember something: Everyone in this game is out there to make money. That includes Snap and every single influencer on the platform. And when those two interests don’t align perfectly? Expect to see more Change.org petitions.