The constant evolution of social media

Just last week, Snapchat introduced a new feature, dubbed Memories, that essentially allows users to share any photo or video — even those taken outside of the app. Other features of Memories includes a more streamlined way to save snaps, as well as a time capsule-like feature that allows you to share photos taken the same time a year ago.

For an app that prides itself in ephemerality, this change proves a complete 180 and opens up a whole new kind of sharing for Snapchat. However, is this change necessary a bad thing? Iconic as they may be, the novelty of disappearing messages simultaneously proves an obstacle in adoption. Certain users would much rather use Facebook or Instagram to capture their favourite moments in life. Essentially, by keeping the core function of ephemeral message the same and adding a central for saving photos as well, Snapchat has reached a compromise. A compromise that is probably completely necessary for it to survive against the social media titans that are Facebook and Instagram.

It isn’t just Snapchat that’s changing though, it seems every other week, there comes a change to the social media platforms we’ve come to love. In this year alone, both Twitter and Instagram have changed from chronological news feeds to algorithmic-based feeds, Facebook changed its news feed algorithm, Tumblr added its own form of live video streaming… the list goes on. Let’s also not forget all the minor changes like 360-degree photos and videos and Twitter #Stickers! It seems that change is truly inevitable.

As with every change, users take to social media (ironically) in outcry, or very rarely, praise. Disappointment that creators don’t listen to users, disbelief that the rumoured change actually happened or anger that they have to get used to something new. Why then, do social media platforms take the risk of change if all users do is demand otherwise?

The answer is simply because social media, while a platform for users, is essentially a business. These platforms need to draw new people to the site, and in big numbers, so as to make themselves valuable to advertisers. Change and innovations are all attempts at making sure the platform stays relevant in the years to come and making sure that they can stand the test of time. Take a step back and remember that Facebook, before becoming the social media titan that it is today, had its humble beginnings as a site exclusively for college students to connect (to put it into perspective, this was back in Myspace’s heyday). When Mark Zuckerberg introduced News Feed in 2006, of course Facebook users protested. It was, after all, a fundamental change in direction for what its users had come to know and love. Yet, without those changes, Facebook would never have become what it is today. Just because a platform has a huge user base doesn’t disqualify the company from making changes. Whether or not these changes pay off? That’s a question only the future has an answer for.