Snapchat continues to gain ground in the social space, taking on its more established rivals and becoming more than just a photo sharing app. Its newest feature, Story Explorer, is a small but significant new feature that the company hopes will become popular with its relatively young user base.
Story Explorer builds on Stories, Snapchat’s collective news story tool. When a user uploads a snap of a live Story, all other snaps related to that Story taken by other users are linked with it. Story Explorer allows a user to swipe up to see different perspectives on the same event, so they can get all the information they need with just a few taps.
Snapchat has one considerable advantage over Twitter: it relies on big, beautiful pictures and videos, rather than reams of text, hashtags and links. That makes Story Explorer a compelling prospect, particularly when you consider the demographics of its target market and they way they tend to consume news.
The Story Explorer tool is obviously targeted at people who like to use Snapchat to share photos of public events such as sports fixtures and concerts. This lets everyone build a hive of information around a theme in real time. It could also be used to find out more about a breaking news story by linking uploads from multiple Snapchat users, the kind of thing that made Twitter popular with news junkies.
It looks like the Story Explorer feature can’t be entirely automated yet; human curators need to select stories that genuinely overlap, while weeding out the inevitable sub-par content. Over time, Snapchat may find a way to use location and image scanning techniques to automatically link Stories together without as much reliance on curators. This will help Snapchat compete with Instagram and Twitter to become a social source of breaking news.
It’s strange to think that Snapchat had something of a seedy reputation only a few years ago. Content sent between users disappeared 10 seconds after being opened, which made Snapchat the ideal platform for sharing content you probably wouldn’t want your mom to see.
At the height of the controversy, the FBI warned that Snapchat was being used by pedophiles, which only served to reinforce its unsavory reputation.
Now, with Story Explorer, the app is trying to shed its reputation for ‘sexting’ and become a source for serious news.
Story Explorer is live now in New York and Los Angeles, and will be rolled out to other cities in due course. It’s a small step in the right direction for the fast growing platform, and signals the beginning of a new era of improved and easier to find public content.