This week saw the launch of Snapchat's Discover feature. As with all cases of a social media company developing new and exciting ways for users to access information, become inspired and explore the world, some parts of the internet started moaning.
It's similar to when Facebook introduced hashtags, and everyone was all like: I hate you, Facebook! Hashtags are for Twitter, not Facebook! #ironichashtag
Then, when Twitter incorporated sponsored tweets and people responded with: ARGH! Twitter! Get your spam off my Twitter feed, despite me not paying to use it and you bearing the right to make revenue for providing a service like every other business in the world! #profitmargins
Also, when Instagram changed its Explore function, suddenly explaining why it recommends certain photos to you in particular: Goddammit, Instagram! Now I have to go through all those booby pictures and unlike them before my wife finds out! #ihaveneeds
So anyway, regardless of what a few trolls might be saying, here's what Snapchat's Discover screen looks like, and the National Geographic's introduction specifically:
Personally I think it's brilliant. Up until now I've used Snapchat on-and-off, quickly checking for pointless, boring and badly taken photos and videos posted by friends. These usually contain jerky scenes of dance floor debauchery, incomprehensible drunken shouting, and the occasional idiot fighting a bollard.
Discover, on the other hand, presents professional and high quality publishing. Though the Cosmopolitan and People sections aren't really for me, National Geographic is right up my alley. I also quite enjoy the titbits from MTV, as it's always good to know who's been twerking where, when and at what, and why we should all follow their example.
If you haven't checked out Discover, or have never even used Snapchat, I recommend you take a look. Basically what it does is offer bite-sized features for 24 hours, which in the case of NG focused on snakes, the cosmos, gourmet coffee in South America, butterfly wing patterns, and the best places to go skiing. Tomorrow it will provide entirely new topics, also available for just one day.
The NG material ranges from articles and photography to videos and a pop quiz (turns out that Djibouti is the only African country that shares a name with its capital). Unlike those sent to you privately by friends, Discover videos can be paused and watched multiple times, which came in handy when I saw footage of countless snakes in a space no bigger than a bath and felt it was time I had a new recurring nightmare.
All in all, Discover leaves Snapchat pretty much the same as it's always been (except for no longer being able to see your friends' top recipients and total snaps sent). It gives us a valuable temporary digital library, dedicated to everything from the latest news and sports to celeb gossip and recipes, all in digestible chunks of visual content that are accessible within seconds.
In the same way that I check my Twitter feed for interesting articles, Facebook for amusing banter, Google+ for artistic inspiration, LinkedIn for marketing news and Instagram for what seems to be nothing but photos of my girlfriend's cat, I imagine that Snapchat will become my go-to place for learning quick facts, ogling beautiful landscapes, expanding my horizons and, as should always be the case with social media, watching things like an expert coffee taster gobbing into a bucket.
Author: Rich Sutherland, @beardybiscuits