After a dark year, Snap is letting in some light.
Evan Spiegel, Snap’s famously private 28-year-old co-founder and chief executive, took to the stage this past Thursday to deliver a keynote speech and announce a new suite of products for the company’s disappearing-message app Snapchat.
That’s standard procedure for most tech companies. But it marks a first for Snap.
Spiegel used the opportunity to draw a bright line between Snap and the rest of the tech industry.
“Our camera lets the natural light of the world penetrate the darkness of the internet,” he said at the event in West Hollywood, Calif.
“The internet started as a military research project — it’s just not our natural habitat.”
Twitter, Alphabet Inc.’s Google — which owns YouTube — and Facebook — which owns Instagram — have in the last year been plagued by high-profile scandals over user privacy and destabilizing effects on society and democracy.
Following a disastrous redesign of Snapchat in early 2018, Snap has had its own annus horribilis, marked by executive churn, slipping user growth and a roller-coaster stock price.
But with a stabilized user base of 186 million daily active users — according to the Los Angeles company’s own metrics, 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds in America use Snapchat — and a longstanding emphasis on user privacy, the company is betting that it can regain its footing and move toward profitability by positioning itself as the safe, fun social network for its core users.
“On Snapchat, you’re free to be you, with your real friends,” Spiegel said Thursday.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“As we use the internet more and more in our daily lives, we need a way to make it a bit more human.”
He also made Snap’s competition with Facebook — which secured nemesis status after cloning Snap’s popular Stories feature for Instagram in 2016 — more explicit, claiming that Snap’s advertising reaches more users in the 13-to-24 demographic than Facebook’s or Instagram’s, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia.
The premise that users value private, ephemeral messaging and intimate social experiences more than the overwhelming scrum of Facebook’s news feed or Instagram’s brand- and influencer-heavy lineup was recently supported by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who announced last month that Facebook’s own products would be shifting in that direction.