Snapchat’s limitless update shows it doesn’t need to follow Facebook’s playbook

Limitless snaps? Looping snaps?!

Snapchat changed the game Tuesday with several new product features that had some diehard users cringing. Snap has shown a willingness to change often and radically, but the most recent changes show that even the most sacred cows can be slaughtered.

Limitless snaps mean you can send a snap for someone to view in your story or in a chat until an indefinite period of time or well, until they tap away. Looping snaps let you set a snap on a loop, that, again, continues until you tap. The update also introduces emoji drawing (it sounds like what it is), and a “magic eraser” that allows you to make objects disappear from snaps.

Urgency was always core to the original Snapchat experience. Snaps disappeared after a day and could only be played once in chat or in chronological order in a Snapchat Story. With the options of limitless and looping snaps, that’s not the case anymore. No longer is there the idea of “If you missed it during those 10 seconds, you missed it.”

Why mess with such a core part of Snap’s success? Because it’s focused on making sure its users keep on creating things in their app, whether it’s by professionals or just average people.

“Snapchats not super concerned about the hardcore creators like me, but they have to respect the fact that its a creation-forward app,” said Michael Platco (mplatco), a long-time Snapchat creator who specializes in illustrations.

“So many people who use the app every day are creators on the app. This is an answer to [Instagram’s] Boomerangs which are getting more and more popular,” he continued.

Image: snap inc.

Snapchat has faced an onslaught of pressure from Facebook ever since the much-larger social network released a copycat Stories feature into Instagram, and then later shoved it at the top of all Facebook apps. It hasn’t stopped there. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented a future of augmented reality at last month’s F8, complete with experiences that copy Snapchat’s own lenses.

Facebook’s copying doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road, however. For one, an App Annie report Snap planted in Bloomberg said 46 percent of Snapchat users arent found on Instagram, showing that the app has a unique audience.

Still, that doesn’t mean Snap won’t face external pressure from advertisers and investors to grow. Twitter faced investor disappointment and a downturn of its stock for its failure to add many users, while Facebook lured the world. Snap is arguably even more similar to Facebook.

That’s why Snap must continue to pitch its desirability. One way is through Discover: Snapchat has an exclusive set of publishing partners (Mashable is one) and deals with TV studios to create more must-see (well, Snap hopes) content.

Another way to keep people on Team Snapchat is by offering more creative tools and experiences as they did on Tuesday. The diehard users and the more recent converts have something new to play with on Snapchat.

“I personally dont know how that will affect the users at this point, but it seems kind of neat. I was hoping for more video control and just more stuff to do creativity with videos thats not just a filter,” said Audrey Spencer (cakes1todough1), an artist on Snapchat.

Looping offers creators new ways to snap, taking advantage of the close just as they would on six-second Vines.

“It wouldnt surprise me if they started offering some sort of stat on how many loops [the snap] got and thats something that they can monetize,” Platco said.

Limitless means that a user’s mom may no longer be frustrated by how fast their daughter’s snaps disappear (Or is that just me?).

It’s important to note that these updates arrived just a day before Snap Inc. will present its first-ever earnings report. These changes are a proof point that Snapchat is far from stagnant when it comes to its product. It never has been, as evident in a timeline tucked within its S-1 filing:

Part 1:

Image: snap inc.

Part 2:

Image: snap inc.

Part 3:

Image: snap inc.

The scale on those charts is daily active users. Snapchat does not reveal monthly active user numbers, instead narrowing in on its most engaged audience, which investors and analysts will have to accept.

Snapchat is full of highly engaged creators who pioneered and continued to use the creative tools. Yet, Snap does not put much in the way of resources into supporting them, whether it be with a partnership coordinator or with seamless, money-making options, like YouTube does, for example. This latest update saw the disappearance of an easier-to-use art tool on Android, making creators agitated.

That lack of support frustrates some creators. But it appears that Snapchat’s strategy is more to the vain of “If you build it, they will come.” Create something fun for the teenager, the college students, and the celebrity, and you can hope that they’ll stick with you.

With these updates, Snapchat is empowering not only creators but also average users, like my colleague Freia Lobo, to make art:

Not every user may love every tool. Spencer said she still was holding her breath for an eraser tool for doodles and an eyedropper to help her with her illustrations.

“I dont know how much the editing will really advance the platform but it seems cool. Im looking forward to trying it,” Spencer said. With the new tool bar on the side, “maybe that means like there’s more stuff to come.”

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