Snapchat update sees backlash



Opinion columnist Sam King pens a column discussing the recent Snapchat update and its impact on the app's rivalry with Instagram.

SAM KING, Opinion Columnist

There is an ongoing battle taking place over the web right now. No, it’s not about Russia or another threat to our government. Instead, this is a battle between two social media giants.

Snapchat and Instagram are locked in a virtual boxing ring over who gets to be the premiere selfie app.

Now, although that does sound over-dramatic, this is a pretty serious competition between two large social media platforms that are looking to outdo each other.

This is important for several reasons and I’ll get into that soon. First, I need to explain what’s going on.

Instagram has been waging a war against Snapchat since about 2016 (E Online). This “war” primarily consists of Instagram copying Snapchat’s best features in an attempt to steal users.

This pattern continues today and has forced Snapchat to change. That’s why that new Snapchat update happened.

The infamous update went live a few weeks ago, much to the ire of most users. It’s received near universal negative feedback, so much so that Snapchat may be redesigning some of the most hated parts (Independent).

This update was not designed to purposely upset users, even though it’s done a great job of that. It was instead designed to help take the app in a new direction.

With Instagram hot on the app’s heels, Snapchat needed to reinvent itself. More specifically, it needs to go in a direction that Instagram can’t. How does that work and how can they do that?

Well, it’s a surprisingly simple answer. Make Snapchat less social.

Initially, that sounds strange, but Snapchat has never been a social network (Wall Street Journal). It’s simply a way to message your friends and share original video.

Recently, it’s also added some interesting AR abilities too. That’s still all Snapchat is.

Yes, you can add friends and message them. However, you still can’t see a timeline or comment on someone’s story. That will probably never be in an update either.

For Snapchat, the best part of this new direction is how Instagram won’t be able to copy them.

What’s stopping Instagram? For one, Facebook owns the platform, and Facebook would never make one of its properties less social. They are the king of social networks and built their entire company around that social concept.

If Snapchat gets some room to breathe, I would expect to see more user-friendly changes to the platform. A few of the changes made in the most recent update are also more user friendly than one may think.

In short, it is less confusing now. It’s no longer “Instagram but complicated.”

There’s still one confusing bit about the app, though, and it’s definitely the order of the friends’ screen. This is one of the more bemoaned parts of the update. The reason why it’s confusing is due to those infamous social media algorithms.

These algorithms serve up content that are “the best for you” instead of the most recent. Since Snapchat is more message-oriented than social, this instantly confuses and turns users off.

I have a personal vendetta against social media algorithms, so I don’t like them either. I would get into my reasoning, but that would be another article.

This update obviously affected a lot of people and upset many people, as well. There’s a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures asking for the old update back. There are tweets and posts all over the web complaining about it (USA Today).

Despite the hate, this update was needed for the platform. Otherwise, Instagram would have run them into the ground.

This update and ongoing battle Snapchat has with Instagram affects all of the apps’ respective users. Most college age people likely have both Snapchat and Instagram — two apps that used to do similar things. Now there’s a bigger difference.

It’s important to properly understand why big updates hit these frequently used apps.

I’m not arguing for or against Snapchat here; I only want to help explain the “why” behind this. I personally find this stuff interesting, and I’m curious where it’s going to go.

In the meantime, these integral social media platforms are going to stay integral so large updates like this one are going to send shockwaves. There will probably be more updates that explode through the internet in the future.

Instagram is still intent on taking down Snapchat, but Snapchat did recently fire back with a promise of analytics (CNN). Both platforms will likely continue to duke it out.

That means we as users may have to bear some more hated updates as the battle continues.