Detach the Feedbag
Snapchat makes social/media a choice.
Last week, Snap CEO and damn good product designer Evan Spiegel made the news-about-the-news in an Axios op-ed, presenting Snapchat’s new UI as a manifestation of his belief that friends and brands should no longer share a room:
It’s a good line. We’ve got our own flavor of this belief at Highly, the internet’s highlight layer. We see media properties as the landscape and social activity as the population traversing it. They’re distinct phenomena.
(Yay wordplay!) But seriously: splitting friend-feeds from news-feeds is a good idea. It’s fundamentally about who controls your attention. When there’s one blended feed, you don’t get a chance to choose … anything. Tap the app, and The Platform chooses for you.
There’s no menu. You eat what’s in front of your face. Indeed the name Feed itself calls to mind a trough or feedbag¹, an apt metaphor for the experience.
Decision making is a use-it-or-lose-it skill, and when it comes to smartphones, we’re losing it.² Today’s media-illiteracy issues are the logical result of a consumer base that’s had little incentive to make its own media choices for a decade. For some cohorts, this has been true for their entire lives.
We don’t pause to choose, let alone think.
This atrophy of agency is neither inevitable nor irreversible. It’s just the logical result of the design decisions that the teams building today’s mainstream digital products are making. And so Evan’s choice — to give users a choice — is actually meaningful. In this light,
Snapchat’s user experience of landing on a camera before choosing (whether) to swipe to Social or Media, is indeed fundamentally better than Facebook’s.
(Of course this is about Facebook.)
Facebook’s feedless forays into news — news magazine Paper (2014) and news alerts Notify (2015)— didn’t break through. They have the talent, ambition and bankroll to build the newspaper of the future — rich but focused, personal but balanced, omnipresent but opt-in — if they want to. It’s not clear that they want to. It’s not clear that we’d want them to.
We happen to be building that better newspaper at Highly, the internet’s highlight layer. Together with our community of highlighters, we surface the meatiest ideas in each story and present these first. Starting with the important parts puts you in the drivers’ seat: go deeper, or don’t.
¹ This is a feedbag:
Highly is the Internet’s Highlight Layer
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