Full disclosure: I own a small number of shares of Twitter.
Earlier this month, Twitter announced deals to bring more live content to the platform. Bloomberg will provide an original stream 24/7 and many other sources will generate technology, news, sports, and other content. Which makes me wonder if anyone at Twitter actually uses Twitter.
There’s something to be said for telling your users what they want instead of letting them tell you. It worked well for Apple, and of course there’s the famous Henry Ford quote about a faster horse. But this doesn’t seem like a product vision so much as grasping for something that might turn around the stock price. Twitter is a great place for near real time conversations about breaking news and live events, but is it the place to watch those? I’m not convinced.
It’s worth noting that Snap is working on similar deals for Snapchat. Snap is coming off a disappointing earnings report (its first since going public) that saw a 25% drop in stock price. Snap is facing a lot of pressure from Instagram, which is adding features that look very similar to Snapchat’s with the added bonus of being a Facebook property.
Facebook has been strong in user-generated live content, but they don’t seem to be that interested in pursuing Content. Given the success of Facebook, this is either a glaring oversight or a wise decision that other social networks might want to take a lesson from.
But getting back to Twitter, I recently joined the “Twitter Insiders” community. They asked for feedback on a potential new threading feature last week. It’s basically native tweetstorms. One of the survey questions asked what I’d call such a feature. I said “Medium”.
Snapchat’s founder announced on Friday that the company is working on a new, non-software product: sunglasses. Set to go on sale this fall, these sunglasses will include a camera that, when activated, will record 10 seconds of video. Presumably, this video will be posted to Snapchat by way of the user’s phone.
Some of the reaction I’ve seen so far is pretty predictable: “it’s like Google Glass, but less featured!” and “what a great way to announce that you’re a d-bag.” Haters gonna hate, as they say, and I’ll admit that the design is not my style. Still, there are reasons to believe Snapchat’s Spectacles will have the sort of wide consumer adoption that Google Glass never did:
- Price. At less than one-tenth the price of Google Glass, it’s much more affordable. The price is in line with normal sunglasses, for those of us who don’t buy our sunglasses off the spinny rack at the drug store (full disclosure: I buy my sunglasses off the spinny rack at the drug store).
- Branding. Oh sure, Google had great brand recognition when Glass launched. But Google’s brand is more about utility. Snapchat is about social. And this lines up well with the respective eyewear, but I think the fact that Snapchat is a social media platform, not a “know everything” platform helps in this case.
- Obviousness. Both Google Glass and Spectacles are pretty obvious externally, but Spectacles will apparently have an LED light to indicate when it was recording. The fact that Spectacles are sunglasses, not a fixture on general-purpose glasses, means that some of the more obvious privacy concerns (particularly bathrooms) are avoided because people probably won’t be wearing them inside. Plus the limited duration shortens the window for privacy violations. It’s more “I have my camera ready to go” and less “I am recording your every move.”
- Simplicity. Yes, Spectacles have very limited use, but that also means they’re really easy to use. I haven’t used Glass, so I can’t speak for the ease of use, but it’s hard to beat “push this button.”
None of this is any guarantee that Spectacles will be a success, of course. It will be interesting to see how this affects Snapchat usage. Anecdotally, while I have many friends of a variety of genders, ages, and interests on Snapchat, it’s a small group of mostly twenty-something women that post stories (perhaps there’s greater usage 1:1?). There’s a lot to be said for being able to share your experiences from your own point-of-view, so now we’ll have to see what Evan Spiegel and company can do.