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Is Snapchat’s Redesign Brilliant or a Blunder?

March 23, 2018, 1:30 PM UTC

A disruptive change to the mobile app has some users up in arms.

The argument against:


­ More than a million people signed an online petition to reverse Snapchat’s latest redesign because it made features more difficult to use. Change is hard—I won’t deny that. And people don’t always know what they want until you show it to them. But millions of users see Snapchat’s rearranged interface and reject it.


­ Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says it needs to make big changes for long-term success. That’s true—daily active users grew as little as 3% between quarters in 2017. But Snapchat lacks a core raison d’être that the redesign doesn’t fix. In Facebook you find friends. In Instagram you find respite. What’s so special about Snapchat?


­ I like that Snap is aggressively chasing advertisers and building tools, but recent layoffs make me wonder whether it can do that and keep users happy, let alone catch up to Facebook or Google. Remember Snap’s IPO? Its S-1 form said: “If we are not able to maintain or improve our market share, our business could suffer.”—Andrew Nusca

Andre Nusca, left: Fortune’s digital editor and cochair of its Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. Has never seen a Santa Monica sunset he didn’t want to Snap. Christina Austin, right: A Fortune editor based in New York City who opens Snapchat five times a day, doesn’t follow Kylie Jenner, and adores the vomiting rainbow lens.

The argument for:


­ The redesign is so not a big deal. It was for a day—Kylie Jenner tweeted, the stock tumbled. But I’ve already forgotten what the old Snapchat looked like. I learned how to use the new interface, and there’s no looking back. Facebook redesigned its app hundreds of times, and no one batted an eye. Snapchat can do the same.


­ Isn’t it obvious? The “chat”! Spiegel aims to separate conversations and broadcasts and make them look different. The redesign accomplishes that. It’s misleading to call Snapchat a social network; it’s really a messaging app. It’s meant for normal people, not celebrities—which is why its new look will help growth.


­ Yeah, and no one thought Facebook could build out a mobile ad business either. Snap is valuable because it’s not Facebook or Google. That’s why it’s attractive to advertisers. Just look at Snapchat’s Discover section—it displays publisher content way differently than Facebook does. Which app has a fake-news problem again?—Christina Austin

What we agree on:


Snap needs to develop its core Snapchat app and not become distracted by projects like smart glasses and drones.


Me-too feature development by Facebook remains a real threat to Snap’s competitive differentiation.


Its stock may be taking a beating, but Snap must pursue audience growth, not profitability.