Talking tech since 2003

Snapchat’s claim to fame has been the private nature of messages sent between users. Someone sending a photo or video can set a time limit for viewing and, when that time limit expires, the photo or video self-destructs. It’s sort of the anti-Facebook and anti-Twitter, where shared updates never really die. But an update rolled out for Snapchat today includes a brand new feature called “Stories” that serves as a slight departure from the idea of private messaging.

snapchatThe Stories feature is a timeline of sorts for media you want to share publicly. The catch is that, when another user views your story on Snapchat, he or she can only see photos or videos from the past 24 hours. That 24-hour window is constantly rolling, which means old photos and videos are constantly falling out of your story stream and new ones you add are visible. Stories are displayed in chronological order and, to add a photo or video to your story, simply snap one as usual and then, instead of selecting a recipient from the “Send to” menu, choose “My Story.”

This new feature is an interesting idea. In an interview with The Verge, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel compared posting inside a rolling 24-hour window to posting content on a static profile, saying that, “You have to worry about how this new content fits in with your online persona that’s supposed to be you. It’s uncomfortable and unfortunate.” Spiegel is right about the pressure users might feel when posting content that isn’t going to vanish in 24 hours and how some might hold back as a result. But is Snapchat really the place users want this functionality?

I’m not sold on that. Up to this point, Snapchat has served as a messaging service that has won a lot of users over with its focus on privacy. It’s an app that users only interact with when they’re sending or receiving messages — after all, full-blown social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. already exist for browsing. With the Stories update, Snapchat is asking users to check in on another social network every day, and for those who simply want the most people to see their photo or video updates, Snapchat is not in a position to win that battle.

I’d love to get your thoughts on Snapchat Stories. Like I said, I’m not really convinced that this is something users are asking for, especially from an app that isn’t an “open and browse” type of app, but I’m interested in hearing some other views on the matter. You can leave your comments down below. And, please, enjoy this video of hipsters making Snapchat Stories.

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