Snapchat is taking its biggest step back yet from the disappearing messages that made it famous — and it may not be a bad thing.
Snapchat revealed a new feature Wednesday called Memories, which will allow users to more easily save their photos and videos and, for the first time, easily share photos and videos captured outside of the app.
On a practical level, Memories promises to bring users much more flexibility in how they share photos and videos within Snapchat. That’s because you’ll be able to not only have a more streamlined way to save your snaps, but you also will be able to share photos you’ve already taken.
More importantly, though, is the fact that you’ll finally be able to use Snapchat to share any photo or video you want — not just those you took within the app. Sure, Snapchat will (subtly) distinguish between snaps taken and shared “in the moment” and those shared from Memories, but it’s difficult to understate how transformative of a change this is for an app famous for its ephemerality.
Think about it: You’ll soon be able to use the same amount of precision and planning (and the outside apps and equipment that goes with them) usually reserved for composing the perfect Instagram. It will open up Snapchat to a whole new kind of sharing.
Instead of purely spontaneous animation-filled selfies and blurry videos, you can use Snapchat to share much more thoughtfully — the way you would on Facebook or other apps whose photos don’t disappear. There’s even a Timehop-like feature that will show you photos you took around the same time a year ago.
Initial reactions to the feature, which won’t be rolling out for another couple weeks, so far seem to be positive. That’s likely because even the app’s most dedicated users have lamented not being able to recapture a particularly good snap they neglected to save.
At the same time, the timing of Memories is far from accidental. As we’ve previously noted, it’s increasingly important for Snapchat to reach a broader (and, yes, older) audience if it hopes to keep growing and eventually go public. And Snapchat’s disappearing messages — iconic though they may be — have been something of a blessing and a curse for the app. Ephemerality generated buzz in its early days, but the fleeting snaps have been a source of confusion for some.
I’ve introduced many friends and family members to Snapchat over the years and, invariably, one of the first questions they ask is, “But why don’t my photos save?” (Or, as Mashable’s deputy managing editor Kate Sommers-Dawes put it “Why would you want to send an adorable pic of your adorable dog and write hilarious messages on it if you’re never going to see it again?”
And while you can explain away the nuances of sharing on Snapchat vs. sharing on Facebook or somewhere else (“Snapchat is for photos that you don’t want to share on Facebook,” I usually say) it’s difficult not to see this as a pivotal moment for the company. Memories is, essentially, a compromise. You can have ephemeral messages that disappear into the Snapchat ether andyou can make Snapchat a home for your favorite moments.
Is it a risky move for a social media company whose entire business is premised on impermanence? Sure. But it might just be a necessary one.