When asked about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new privacy-focused vision for his company Wednesday, a Snap executive told press that Facebook’s products are doing damage to society, and that Zuckerberg should address the company’s messes before investing in the future.
On Thursday, at its first ever Partner Summit in Los Angeles, Snap announced new ways for its own advertisers to reach users outside of the Snapchat app with its new Snap Audience Network. It claims the tool will extend an advertiser’s audience to third-party apps without compromising user privacy.
Snapchat has to toe a fine line to protect user privacy — a balancing act for a company that must prove to Wall Street it has room to grow, while avoiding some of the major missteps with user data made by its competitors, including Facebook.
The Snap Audience Network does something other companies, including Facebook and Twitter, already do. For example, a shoe brand could run a Snap ad targeting people of a certain age and gender, and reach users on other apps. Snapchat shares ad revenue with the third-party app that features the ad.
“It makes sense for Snapchat to also have its own ad network,” said Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer. “Snap has several unique and engaging ad formats that would likely play well outside of Snapchat. The launch of the ad network will be a test of whether advertisers agree.”
Snap said it wouldn’t give individual user data to third parties and would only provide aggregated data, which won’t identify who users are or details about them. Users’ friend lists also wouldn’t be given to third parties.
Working with third-parties has been at the heart of many of Facebook’s own privacy problems, from data firm Cambridge Analytica collecting information of 87 million Facebook users to this week’s news that third-party app makers had left databases of user data exposed on Amazon cloud servers.
Tensions between Snap and Facebook go beyond privacy. Facebook-owned Instagram, Snapchat’s primary competitor, has found huge success with copying Snapchat’s Story format. Instagram Stories recently hit 500 million daily users, while Snapchat has 186 million daily users for its entire app.
Now Snap is trying to breathe more life into Stories. It announced a feature called App Stories that lets Snapchat users post videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours to other sites and apps. This is made possible through Snap Kit, which launched in 2018 and allows developers to add Snapchat’s capabilities and features to their own apps.
For example, Tinder and Snapchat users will be able to post a Story directly to their Tinder profile, starting this summer. Snapchat is also partnering with social network Houseparty and outdoor-activity app Adventure Aide, which will also be able to use Snapchat Stories on their respective platforms. The company hopes the integrations will encourage users to post more Snapchat Stories.
Snapchat has long been a closed-off platform with content remaining within the walls of the app. This marks a major change and could be an important step for Snapchat to continue growing and attracting new users amid heightened competition with Instagram.
In its most recent quarter, Snap squeezed significantly more revenue out of its users despite flat audience growth. Snap’s revenue for the holiday quarter reached a record $390 million, up 36% from the same period last year and well ahead of what investors expected.