Commentary

Snap CEO Snarks At Facebook -- But Admits His Product Should 'Evolve'

Pouring salt on Facebook’s wounds, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says he wishes his rival would offer better security for its more than 2.1 billion users.

Spiegel made the puckish plea at the Code Conference on Tuesday, during an interviewer with Recode’s Kara Swisher.

Asked about Facebook’s habit of copying Snapchat’s more popular features, Spiegel redirected the discussion toward data privacy.

Along with design inspiration, “We would really appreciate it if [Facebook] copied our data protection practices also,” Spiegel quipped before an audience of tech and media elites.

Of course, Spiegel isn’t the first tech titan to call out Facebook since the Cambridge Analytica volcano first erupted in March.

Most notably, Apple head Tim Cook took the opportunity to accuse the social giant of reducing its users to products.

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Were Apple to sink to Facebook’s level, “We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers … if our customers were our product,” Cook said in an interview with MSNBC and Recode.

In response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Cook’s comments “extremely glib.”

“The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay,” Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein.

Neither Zuckerberg nor anyone at Facebook have so far responded to Spiegel’s remarks, which went further than matters of data privacy.

Indeed, Spiegel sees Snap as an existential threat to Facebook and more traditional social networks.

“Snapchat isn't just a bunch of features,” said Spiegel. “It has an underlying philosophy that runs counter to traditional social media.”

Alluding to Facebook and its ilk, Spiegel added: “That’s why traditional social media feels threatened.”

Yet, while Facebook has plenty of reasons to feel threatened, Snap is looking less and less like one of them.

Among other issues, research shows that Snapchat’s “impression score” -- showing whether consumers have a positive or negative impression of a brand -- has plummeted since the release of its controversial redesign late last year.

The redesign backlash contributed to Snap missing analyst earnings and usership expectations during the first quarter of this year.

Defending the redesign on Tuesday, Spiegel said it was needed to ensure that users feel comfortable expressing themselves.

“When we looked at social media,” he said, “one of the biggest problems that really stood out to us was this constant conflict between needing to have a small group of friends to feel comfortable expressing yourself, but also needing to have a large group of friends so that you can watch more content.”

Snapchat’s redesigned interface, therefore, divides the app into two sections: one side for friends’ posts, and the other for professional media.

“We wanted to find a way to empower people to express themselves -- to keep that small group of friends -- but at the same time expose the whole world of content that’s on Snapchat that people want to watch,” Spiegel explained.

In terms of the actual execution, however, he admitted: “I think we have to continue to evolve and reiterate to product to get the result that we’re looking for.”
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