Snap’s stock has fallen below its initial public offering price, and the company remains unprofitable. Snap delivered a disappointing earnings report this month, causing its stock to plunge even further. Mr. Spiegel said on an earnings call with investors that he was redesigning the Snapchat app.
Some things about Snapchat are not changing. For instance, the app still opens to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos and videos with friends.
But the redesign otherwise moves Snapchat even further away from a traditional social media model.
Material shown on the app’s right side — what is now the media part — must meet content and community standards, Snap has decided, whether that material is produced by a newspaper, a television studio, the company’s in-house news and stories teams or so-called influencers. All must be vetted and approved by Snap.
By contrast, those who create content do not need to be vetted to distribute it widely on Facebook and Google. That has allowed hate speech, fake news and disturbing videos aimed at children to proliferate on those platforms. During the presidential election last year, Russian propagandists used Facebook, Google and Twitter to spread material meant to sow division and influence the outcome of the race.
“Separating social from media has allowed us to build the best way to communicate with friends and the best way to watch great content — while addressing many of the problems that plague the internet today,” Mr. Spiegel said in his blog post.
Philip Napoli, a professor of public policy at Duke University who studies media and democracy, said that Snapchat’s redesign would test people’s willingness to embrace a social media app that relied more on human curators than algorithms.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s enough of a consumer backlash to make this potentially viable, especially in light of the last year,” Professor Napoli said.
Snap said it was using a kind of artificial intelligence known as machine learning to understand what people like to see, based on their activity, and planned to offer them new content in line with those preferences.
There are limits to the amount of personalization that Snapchat will provide. In an approach similar to how Netflix widely promotes some television shows and movies, Snap will continue to promote some material — including breaking news, a new video series or a popular sporting event — to all of its users.
Human curators will also program content to make sure that users’ preferences are not keeping them from seeing a wide array of opinions and ideas, the company said. In addition to winnowing out fake news, this may keep Snapchat from becoming a place that reinforces narrow sets of thinking.