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What snapchat did right 👻

snapchat-logo

Snapchat has taken the world by storm. It started out as a platform to send short temporary photos or videos to your friends, and slowly evolved into a platform for sharing snapshots of your life with everyone, and to view snapshots of your friends lives, and also the lives of other people around the world (through events).

As of this writing, Snapchat’s valuation is at a whopping $16 billion. The weird thing is, there is nothing unique you can do on snapchat that you can’t do on facebook, google+ (lol), or instagram. There must be something that attracts so many users to snapchat, and it can’t all be just about the short-term nature of the content you upload.

Disclaimer - Everything you read below is my opinion only. I am not affiliated with snapchat.

TLDR; the reason snapchat is doing so well is because of the restrictions it imposes in many areas, and the freedom it gives in a few.

Only pictures clicked directly on snapchat can be added to your story

This is perhaps the biggest reason snapchat hasn’t turned into a spam-filled graveyard. All pictures you want to put on your story have to be clicked in the moment. This means that everyones story is a genuine representation of their life. As the naturally social creatures that we are, we want more and more to know about whats going on in peoples lives.
The last time I browsed through one of my friend’s profiles on facebook, it was filled with viral posts and videos, with the occasional photo here and there. Try it — go to any random friends profile and see how many posts it takes before you actually get to one that shows where they are or what they are doing. For example, my current facebook homepage looks something like this :

facebook-wall

By limiting our snap stories to only pictures we click in the moment, snapchat has made sure that no one fills their stories with viral pictures and videos. Everything you see on snapchat is 100% homemade, and this ensures the quality of the content for all other users.

It doesn’t have to be important

We want every picture on our social network to be perfect (or, atleast good enough to post). This is because every time someone else browses through our profile, that is what they see. Snapchat allows you to post trivial moments of your everyday life, without much of a second thought as to whether its important enough.

“It’s gonna get deleted in 24 hours anyways”

This sees to the quantity of content uploaded, which means that other users always have a bunch of stories to look at each time they login. And, to be honest, it’s these trivial moments which give a much better picture of someones overall life as opposed to a single good looking, edited picture.

“But my life is not that interesting”

Again, the previous point strengthens this one, but what if your day is so dull that there is really nothing even remotely interesting to post? Well, snapchat’s got your back. With all the filters and selfie lenses, any user can instantly transfom themselves into a zombie, beauty queen, or dog. Whats more, these lenses get updated almost everyday, so there is always something new to see. I personally have seen many snaps of people where all they do is mess around with the face morphs.
I mean where else can you do this :

face-morph-1

Or this :

face-morph-1

This again serves to improve the quantity of content that snapchat has to offer.

A window to the world

Not only can you keep in touch with your friends by looking into their lives, but you can also look into the lives of strangers living in other parts of the world. This is really different from watching a documentary or TV broadcast of an event, because you are seeing it through a common mans eyes, and that gives us a more authentic feeling of actually being there.

live-event-1 live-event-2

I, along with many other users, are sure to open the app everyday just to check what’s going on around the world.

So will snapchat beat facebook ?

Short answer - no.

Snapchat is not in the same space as facebook. Rather, it is a subset of it.
I mean, think about it, facebook has filters and live events, and you can click a picture with your phone and upload directly to your wall just like in snapchat. But, by restricting its users to only some of the features, snapchat has essentially specialized in doing a few things really, really well for its users, and this is what attracts us all.

This is not nessecarily true just for snapchat. Instagram, can also be seen as the photo subsection of facebook. Whatsapp is a subset of google hangouts (I mean come on you can do so much more on hangouts), even though whatsapp is doing so much better in terms of a messaging platform.

I guess if theres a lesson to be learnt in all of this, it’s that your app doesn’t need to do something new to be successful. Just pick something that already exists and do it better (which of course is easier said than done).


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Soham Kamani

Written by Soham Kamani, an author,and a full-stack developer who has extensive experience in the JavaScript ecosystem, and building large scale applications in Go. He is an open source enthusiast and an avid blogger. You should follow him on Twitter