Snapchat, the mobile app primarily used for sending social, friendly and sometimes even risqué photos to friends now has a new “Discover” feature.
The update that was introduced to users on Jan. 27 is moving Snapchat into surprising and new territory that uses content production.
“Discovery” is the service’s first attempt to produce original content and provide other publishers a way to deliver short videos, music, articles and encouragement to survive Mondays.
At launch, there are 12 “editions” spanning various topics: CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News and Warner Music Group. Snapchat also created an edition for original content.
“Discover” functions similarly to “Stories,” with chronological updates that friends can view as many times as they want and expires 24 hours after they’re uploaded. Snapchat announced in June 2014 that “Stories” is its most popular feature.
Just like “Stories,” the content on each “Discover” edition is replaced every day. Most editions feature advertisements that are easy to skip — but are advertisements nonetheless.
When you open an edition, Snapchat’s top-navigation elements disappear, displaying content full-screen. Longer content, like articles and videos, have short previews that are reminiscent of magazine covers. Users can swipe up to see more, or swipe to the right or left to view the next page.
In its first week Snapchat has already displayed a wide variety of uses for “Discover.” Comedy Central has short clips of shows like “Workaholics” and “The Daily Show”, Vice displays edgy content from their various channels, Cosmopolitan gives horoscopes and ESPN has the expected sports updates. Katie Couric even reads the headlines of Yahoo News articles, then introduces and closes the day’s edition.
Users can swipe past the “Stories” page to the “Discover” page after updating the app.
In the press release that announced the feature, Snapchat said “Discover” is “not social media.” Instead, it says they “count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.”
This means they won’t be using traditional metrics such as page views, likes or retweets. Ideally, this will return control to artists and editors instead of handing it to the hive mind of the Internet.
While there are only 12 editions now, there’s potential for more additions. Brands and companies of all types — from food retailers like Dunkin’ Donuts (@dunkindonuts) to news publications like The Verge (@therealverge) — have created public Snapchat pages, uploading “Stories” for users to follow and connect with throughout the day. “Discover” is the obvious and natural next-iteration of this trend, providing those lucky 11 brands with more editorial and creative control, crucially allowing them to display advertisements with Snapchat’s blessing.
I will say that I’ve noticed that Snapchat has taken a little longer to open than usual, and I’ve experienced some lag while loading Discover editions. But overall, Snapchat’s gesture and swipe-heavy interface works smoothly and is instantly intuitive and natural.
Snapchat also quietly added a few other features in this update, including a BlackBerry Messenger-esque icon users can take a photo of to add new friends. The “Stories” page, which used to display “Stories” with a full list of contacts below, has also been simplified to only display contacts that have uploaded a “Story” in the past 24 hours.
With the introduction of “Discover,” Snapchat has shown the “Best Friend” feature out the door. Woebegone users can still see who their most frequently contacted friends are by tapping the “compose chat” button on the top left of the main page where you view new snaps.
This update is Snapchat’s biggest new feature addition in a long time: the most recent big addition was Snapcash, a partnership with payment-company Square that lets users send money to their friends through Snapchat, similar to Venmo and PayPal. That feature didn’t seem to pick up as quickly or universally as Stories did.
“Discover” is typical of what I would expect from Snapchat — novel in its implementation, clearly focused on a younger audience and prioritizing what’s happening today, rather than yesterday or even tomorrow.
Snapchat’s “Discover” is a new medium that exists parallel to what Twitter and Facebook are doing. Snapchat is patiently and methodically filling out its feature list. One can only hope the next big feature they add is group messaging.
Tyler Gold is a senior majoring in Information Technology and Informatics. You can follow him on Twitter for tech updates, or add him on Snapchat just for fun @tylergold.