Snapchat is opening up to outside developers and apps for the first time in a bid to boost user growth with new features and collaborations.
In doing so, the video messaging app is following the footsteps of its rival Facebook, which first welcomed outside developers in 2007. That helped jump-start growth for the social network from 20 million users at the time to over 2 billion today.
Snapchat is mindful that Facebook’s move more than a decade ago has resulted in the company’s string of controversies over user security and privacy — highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
To prevent a repeat, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., said it was taking a number of steps to ensure user data won’t be misappropriated.
Among them, Snapchat users won’t be asked to provide personally identifiable information such as their age and gender; Friends’ user data won’t be shared; and human review is required for any outside app looking to tap into Snapchat’s platform.
“We are committed to continuing to deliver great products to our community — and believe it is possible to do this without compromising their privacy and data,” Snap said in a prepared statement.
The new platform for developers, which is called Snap Kit and is being made available Thursday for the first time, centers on four new features:
Creative Kit allows users to incorporate digital stickers, filters and links from other apps onto Snapchat’s camera view.
Login Kit lets users access other apps by using their Snapchat login, much like Facebook does.
Bitmoji Kit enables Snapchat users to incorporate their bitmojis on other apps.
Story Kit allows outside apps to embed publicly shared Snapchat Stories.
Snap says its initial partners include Postmates, which is using Creative Kit to let users share videos, or snaps, about when their delivery is expected to arrive. Tinder is also allowing its users to share Snapchat bitmojis.
Analysts say Snap’s new strategy could give it a much-needed boost after a challenging first year as a publicly traded company.
The Venice firm has been scorned by its most ardent fans for redesigning its app, has experienced an exodus of executives and has consistently been outpaced in growth by Facebook’s Instagram, which has a knack for mimicking Snapchat’s best features.
“Developers represent the linchpin of success for the company going forward as they must court developers on the platform to keep pace with the likes of other social media giants,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst for GBH Insights.