Snapchat users now can include hyperlinks to outside websites in their posts, reversing a longstanding strategy that has helped keep eyeballs from leaving the messaging and entertainment app.
The update, which rolled out Wednesday, allows users to adorn their photo and video Snaps with clickable links. While the app already allowed users to swap web links in its messaging feature, the shift marks a significant change in the way Snapchat regulates its tightly controlled platform.
It could lead users to share news stories and videos, potentially altering the mix of content seen in the app. Users could start adding links to e-commerce sites on snaps that promote specific products shown in their posts.
"It takes [Snapchat] down the path of direct response marketing," said Victor Anthony, managing partner at Aegis Capital, referring to an advertising strategy in which brands directly communicate with consumers by specific calls to action.
Venice-based Snap Inc., the maker of Snapchat, currently prohibits use of the app for any commercial purpose in its terms of service. But the shift effectively opens the door for sales of products discovered on Snapchat but purchased elsewhere.
Snapchat's chief rival, Facebook-owned Instagram, lets users and brands add links to their profiles but not to individual posts. Verified accounts, however, including celebrities, publications and brands, are allowed to add links to their Stories — slideshow-like posts viewable only for one day. Instagram and Facebook have a history of duplicating Snapchat's defining features.
To access the new tool, called Paperclip, users click on a paperclip icon and paste a link before sending a Snap or adding a post to their public Story. Viewers then can swipe up to view the external web page.
The new update also includes a new voice filter, which allows users to edit the sound in their Snaps, and a cropping feature that lets users create custom backgrounds.