It’s happened to Twitter. And Tumblr. And Instagram. And now, Snapchat’s day has finally come.
Beginning this weekend, the ephemeral messaging app will start rolling out paid advertisements for the first time. The startup announced the news on its blog Friday afternoon, admitting that the introduction of advertisements on the app was bound to “feel a little weird at first.” But the post attempts to assure users that they’re not obligated to actually interact with the ads—at all. Instead, they’ll show up in users’ “Recent Updates” feeds, where they can decide to watch the ads or not. After 24 hours, they’ll disappear completely.
“We won’t put advertisements in your personal communication—things like Snaps or Chats,” the post reads. “That would be totally rude. We want to see if we can deliver an experience that’s fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted.”
The move has been rumored for some time, as Snapchat has faced pressure to prove that it’s actually worth that $10 billion valuation. And the company admitted as much in the post. “We need to make money,” the blog reads. “Advertising allows us to support our service while delivering neat content to Snapchatters.”
Snapchat is undoubtedly aware of the risks. Users of any social media platform have historically revolted the minute branded content starts appearing where their friends’ photos used to be. And yet, despite it, many of these brands survive because even though users don’t like the ads, per se, they don’t hate them enough to ditch the app that all their friends are using. Even Facebook, which has all but buried posts from normal people under heaps of branded content, still boasts one billion users and counting.
Snapchat has clearly decided that it’s now big enough to risk pissing some people off. It’s even more daring, considering the startup is still recovering from the so-called “Snappening,” in which hundreds of thousands of users photos were leaked after a third-party app that apps onto Snapchat to save photos was hacked. The company’s leaders are either very sure of their users’ allegiance or very naive to their mistrust.
Still, even if users stick with Snapchat, that’s no guarantee they’ll actually look at the ads the company serves them. After all, we all know what TV watchers did when given the option to watch commercials or fast forward through them with a DVR. Snapchat ads could meet the same fate, and if they do, advertisers will likely press the company to make the ads more visible.
In the meantime, though, Snapchat promises its ads will be unintrusive, optional, and most importantly, untargeted. Time will tell if that’s a promise Snapchat can actually keep.