More than 1.2m Snapchat users signed a petition urging the company to reverse its “annoying” redesign – but it was a single tweet from Kylie Jenner that may have caused real damage.
After the celebrity tweeted “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me” to her 24m followers, shares of the app’s parent company Snap plummeted 6% – a $1.3bn drop in market value that launched a fresh cycle of embarrassing headlines.
But some analysts and Snapchatters said this was more than just a one-day PR snafu. Facing backlash from brands and influencers and ongoing competition from Facebook and newer apps like Musical.ly, another platform hugely popular among children, Snapchat is suffering from a larger existential crisis, and it’s unclear how it will recover.
“We’re watching a company explode into bits,” said Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Organization, arguing that the redesign scandal was the “greatest app debacle” he had ever seen in Silicon Valley: “This is a kiss of death to a brand like Snapchat with their base that has stuck with them.”
The redesign, launched earlier this month, featured substantial interface changes, including distinguishing content between friends and publishers and reorganizing Snapchat Stories, which are videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours. While major changes to social media platforms often spark brief waves of criticism, the Snapchat controversy could have longer-term impacts, and is just the latest in a series of struggles.
“The whole thing is an absolute mess,” said Scott Levy, CEO of social media agency Fuel Online, noting that his firm generally advises clients not to spend resources on Snapchat. “People are not using it anymore. On top of that, you’re getting public celebrity backlash.”
Snap has recently suffered steep losses as Instagram, owned by Facebook, has attracted hundreds of millions of users to its Stories feature, which functions like Snapchat.
“A lot of my friends were saying they were going to delete it,” said Claire Pachter, an 18-year-old California high school student who has been using Snapchat for about six years and hated the redesign. “It’s so ugly and it’s really hard to understand.”