Are Snapchat Users Willing to Risk Using These New Features?

Snap Inc. goes to IPO today, March 2, 2017

Snapchat has released a new update with several neat features that allow Snapchatters to be more creative with a single tap option. Has Snap Inc. crossed a line somewhere?

Snapchat’s new feature called Paperclip lets users attach a website to any Snap. Your friends can swipe to open the preview-able link in Snapchat’s internal browser to view your message. Earlier, it allowed only ad campaign links and Discover links. Now, it is just a tap away on the paperclip icon in the Vertical Toolkit to navigate to your linked content.

This is a major change. While it does expose Snapchat to a massive risk in terms of malicious linking and so on, parent company Snap Inc. hopes that users will report any misuse of the platform. There are also mitigative measures to automatically detect and block such links from being clicked through.

Other features include backdrop, voice filters, on-demand geofilters and map.

Backdrops allow you to cut out an object from your Snap and give it a more colorful background design. To use this feature, choose the Scissors icon in the Vertical Toolkit and then the Backdrops icon. Just like regular Snapchat filters, the selection of backdrops designs will rotate daily. This helps the users come up with creative options every day.

Voice filters are yet another new feature, and you can use this to remix the sound of voices in your Snaps. Snapchat did have this feature with visual augmented reality lenses, but you can now apply these to any audio on your Snaps. Tap the speaker icon at the bottom of the screen and select from the range of character voices to give your Snap some extra oomph-asis.

Geofilters, which was unveiled in late June, is somewhat similar to the Backdrops one, and lets users design a custom Snapchat filter. The user can decorate Snaps with the creative tools available. Simply tap “On-Demand Geofilters” in settings to check out the all-new mobile creative studio. Then, you can pick a theme for your filter and give it a personal touch with text, emoji and stickers.

Once you are done, choose where you’d like your filter to appear and when; pricing starts at $5.99, but the feature is great for special events like weddings or even birthday parties.

Snap Map is another feature added to the lot, but possibly the most controversial one. This allows the users to instantly locate their friends and to see what’s happening around them, and add their own stories.

It is easy to get started – just tap to zoom out and view the Map. The controversial part is a natural offshoot to any location sharing app or feature used by kids. Some say this feature is dangerously accurate, and practically tracks several people on your list and serves them up on a platter.

If a device is stolen, for example, it could put friends of the user at risk. We’ll have to see how this plays out, especially since a significant portion of Snapchat’s user base is younger adults. There are already signs of agitation among a few UK schools and elsewhere.

Although Snap encourages users to follow its terms of service and respect the privacy of other users, features like Snap Map and Paperclip throw the platform wide open to abuse. For the Paperclip feature, the risk of allowing links is, to a certain extent, addressed by using Google’s Safe Browsing service. But the Snap Map issue is a larger one of user privacy and a very real risk of being misused.

The recent updates are part of Snap Inc.’s initiative to set itself apart from and ahead of Facebook-owned Instagram. However, it is only a matter of time till Instagram gets these features introduced to their app since the two platforms are quite often mirroring each other.

Snap Inc.’s intent behind the new features is to give a boost to its Snapchat user base, especially in the U.S. and other key markets.

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