Snapchat Splits Friends and Media Content in Redesign

Snapchat unveiled what its redesigned app will look like, revealing an algorithm-driven personalized interface that separates friend-created messaging from branded content.

The company explained in a blog post that mixing photos and videos by friends with content from professional content creators fuels the spread of fake news and ultimately affects how a user engages with the app.

“Social media fueled ‘fake news’ because content designed to be shared by friends is not necessarily content designed to deliver accurate information,” said Snap CEO Evan Spiegel in an op-ed published to Axois this morning. Some may see Spiegel’s comments as a direct response to how Facebook has handled their own issues with fake news over the past year.

The new Snapchat will show chats and stories from your friends on the left of the screen with stories from publishers, creators and the community on the right—separating the social and media content that at one time appeared together in the app. The new version will go live on Friday for some users, then roll out widely next week.

Along with the redesign, the app will rely on algorithms based on a user’s interests to source content through its Discover platform and will make sure media companies profit from that content, explained Spiegel.

“We think this helps guard against fake news and mindless scrambles for friends or unworthy distractions,” he wrote.

Taking a cue from Netflix, the Discover page will pull a user’s subscriptions to the top of the content feed, followed by curated stories from news outlets, brands, content creators and the Snapchat community. Instead of solely relying on an algorithm to decide what stories a user is most likely to watch and read, the company is adding a layer of reviews and approvals to ensure the promoted content fits with a user’s interests.

“We believe that this balance of human review and machine personalization provides the best content experience on mobile,” Snap wrote in a blog post.

Algorithms are also being used to enhance a user’s experience with their friends. As the app learns who users communicate with most, it will pull those connections to the top of Snapchat’s new friends list.

The app redesign was announced in early November following disappointing quarterly results from Snap. With growing its users as the chief priority, Spiegel explained a new interface and updated app was needed, despite a potential hit to the business.

“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” Spiegel said at the time. “We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”