Snapchat has just announced a major new update, one which both fundamentally alters the founding ethos of the app and greatly expands its functionality at the same time. From now on, your Snaps can be saved to a new area of the app called 'Memories'.
As shown in the video, Memories is a new section of the app, accessible from the main camera screen. To save a Snap, you simply click the white tick at the bottom left of screen after taking a photo or video.
Saved content will retain all the geofilters, timestamps stickers and anything else added at the time of composition. To access your Memories, you click on a new icon at the bottom middle of the camera screen and drag up to reveal the new section.
This takes you to a whole new area of the app, with all your previously saved snaps available to search, view and re-use.
As you can see, the new section is divided into several sections:
- "All" shows you a listing of all your saved Snaps. Rectangular posts are individual snaps; circular posts represent stories.
- "Snaps" shows you individual Snaps only
- "Stories" shows you stories only
- "Camera Roll" enables you to access your phone's entire camera roll
- And "My Eyes Only" is a private, password protected section where you can store your more intimate images (FYI - don't lose your password, Snapchat says they won't be able to recover them if you forget)
There's also a search option which you can access by pressing on the magnifying glass in the top left of screen.
In this section, you can search by using hundreds of keywords that Snapchat will identify in captions, emoji, stickers, dates, etc. Snapchat's also added in an automated image recognition tool which can identify reportedly hundreds of objects in your content, a capacity Snapchat plans to build over time. To start with, you can search for things like "sunsets", "surfing" or "ocean" and the system will be able to identify such within your content.
The main use case for these memories, as noted by Snapchat, is to show memories to friends while you're hanging out together (as demonstrated in the video), but you can also re-use your saved Snaps.
To do so, you simply press and hold on any of your old content which opens a new editor screen. You can edit your old stories then re-send them to specific friends or re-upload them for all to see. All of your previous additions, like geofilters and stickers, can be edited and moved around to make them into 'new' Snaps. You can also add Snaps to a story, or create a new story of your memories.
If you share a saved Snap within 24 hours of shooting it, it'll appear like any other, but if you do so after that 24 hour window, it will show up with a white border around it and a time stamp, signifying that it's an old Snap (you can see this in the last image in the above sequence). This is to ensure that Snapchat content remains fresh - if you're just re-posting old content, that could take away from the immediacy and intimacy of the app, which is what much of Snapchat's popularity has been built upon. With older content clearly flagged with the white border, it'll mean Snapchat can maintain that freshness and focus on newer material, as opposed to peoples just regurgitating their greatest hits.
It's an interesting, and somewhat risky addition for Snapchat. The app built its name and following on the back of its ephemeral nature - Snapchat rose to prominence at a time where younger users were looking for an alternative to Facebook, which was being overrun by their parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents. Snapchat offered a way to avoid those prying eyes, a place where you could post anything you wanted, free of your wider network's judgement and not retained on your permanent public record. That approach gained Snapchat notoriety - as the place where teens go to share nude photos - while also helping it build a dedicated community, a place that was more exclusive and difficult for outsiders (read: olds) to access.
Over time, Snapchat has moved to distance itself from this approach. Snapchat acknowledged early on that it was possible to save Snaps after several controversies involving saved content. They then took this a step further by enabling people to purchase replays, which they later scrapped in favour of simply giving users free access to one replay for every Snap.
As such, Snapchat has been moving away from that core "disappearing content" ethos for some time, but the addition of Memories makes that shift complete.
Of course, you can still choose which Snaps you save, and the addition of the "My Eyes Only"" section enables them to maintain a level of privacy and intimacy within the app.
But the new feature expands Snapchat beyond its roots and gives the platform a whole new level of functionality - it essentially enables users to replace their camera roll with Snapchat as their photo album of choice.
And as you might expect, some are already proclaiming the death of Snapchat.
In a post entitled "Snapchat is Ruined" on Gizmodo, writer William Turton laments that Snapchat is now going to become like every other social app with more edited, curated content:
"Right now, stories are spontaneous. They feature a cute dog you saw walking down the street, or some blurry footage from a drunken night out. Now, people are going to upload only the best, most polished snaps to their story. This sucks. Snapchat always felt so raw, and now it's just another Instagram or Facebook."
Given the capacity to be able to save, edit then post later, this is a possibility - rather than uploading their content during the event, people can now save several versions of their Snaps then post a highlight reel when they get home, which does feel like a shift away from the normal Snapchat experience. And while there have always been workarounds you could use to post Snaps at a later time (switching on Aeroplane Mode, for example), adding the option to do this easily and within the native app itself will likely lead to a more embellished Snapchat experience, which could detract from the app's appeal.
Though even with that taken into consideration, the likelihood that Memories will fundamentally change the Snapchat experience is pretty unlikely. The app now has more than 150 million daily active users, and those who do use Snapchat have built an affiliation with the app, a connection with its tools and features and the friendship networks they've established. As such, it'll likely take something major to make them stop using it - and while Memories is significant, it doesn't essentially change the Snap process, people can pretty much ignore it if they want.
And while there is the concern that adding in a save option may erode that immediacy, it'll more likely add to the experience than detract, as it gives users new options, new tools to play with, with that extra layer of privacy retained. And either way, it's still less public than Facebook.
And that element, in particular, is what's seen users sharing more of their private posts and updates on Snapchat - something that Facebook, in particular, is concerned about. Sharing of personal updates (people's thoughts and photos) on Facebook have declined significantly in recent times, something Zuckerberg and Co are keen to rectify, adding in new sharing options and re-aligning their algorithm to put more emphasis on personal updates in order to get users interacting and engaging more, and sharing more about what's happening in their lives, as opposed to posting the latest funny video or news item. Facebook needs that personal sharing to stay on their platform to help fuel their ad data banks - people sharing more of their personal updates on Snapchat is bad for business.
If anything, the addition of Memories will only increase that capacity for people to share personal updates on their platform instead. And with that, it's Snapchat who's gathering that precious data, which it can then use to fuel its own ad ambitions.