2016: Year of the Ghost

Each week, we share our top picks from the land of Snap Inc. in Snap Chats. Read the highlights in our 2016 retrospect below, and Sign Up to get the freshest updates, hot off the press & direct to your inbox.

In January 2016, people still needed a bit of convincing that Snapchat was here to stay. But then early predictions of an IPO started to surface, and when money talks, the Ad Industry listens. Snapchat Discover launched, with the Wall Street Journal scoring the coveted first spot. The Snapchat Ghost had a weekend in Vegas - and returned with money on its mind. After years of refusing to monetise, plans to open up its API to advertisers were set in motion. This Ad platform, as we now know, is predicted to generate billions in revenue.

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At this point, Snapchat called it quits on paid lenses, and much to the disgust of many, deleted the popular “vomiting rainbow” filter. Fortunately, these paid lenses were replaced by as many as  ten free lenses per day, and Snapchat secured a strong foothold in the Augmented Reality game.

In June, Snapchat overtook Twitter in Daily Active Users, and the social media Hunger Games began. Instagram launched their own version of Stories, and Facebook later attempted to follow suit with Lifestage. This made little difference to Facebook’s declining advertising effectiveness, with Snapchat’s Ad products edging out a lead there, too. Meanwhile, Snapchat not-so-quietly acquired the custom emoji generation app Bitmoji for over $100 Million, deleted its Facebook page, and gave its Social Media contemporaries the middle-finger salute.

Following on from the wildly successful Geofilters, Snapchat introduced their playful younger sibling, Geostickers. The location-based stickers proved an instant hit, but were available in few select locations. Snapchat’s insatiable appetite for acquiring interesting tech companies was again evidenced with the $200 Million purchase of Vurb. A social-life organising toolkit, Vurb’s card system design was not dissimilar to Snapchat’s Discover section, the merger hinting at a discovery engine development for Snapchat.

In Ad-product land, things started to get high tech, with Snapchat & Sony Pictures teaming up for the first 360 degree video ad in the Discover section. In-app playable games also came to Snapchat with a surprisingly good game of tennis via ESPN and Serena Williams. On-demand custom Geofilters opened up the space to consumers, and got much more user-friendly. And while the classic “Happy Birthday” filters formed a large slice of their initial usage, soon brands and businesses were putting them to good use too - like this Geofilter Scavenger Hunt from Georgetown University.

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In September, a massive platform update brought with it live user-content previews, the ability to ‘pin’ text to video, and font transformation effects bold, italic, and underline. In the months to come, another UI overhaul would make Stories more user-friendly, with Rewind and Share Stories functionality - great news for consumers. Brands were also in for a treat when Snapchat rolled out Snap Audience Match, which let marketers anonymously match their email lists and mobile IDs with Snapchat’s user information. This enabled sophisticated ad targeting based on content categories followed by a specific user, music to the ears of many advertisers keen to tap Snapchat’s fountain of youth.

At the same time, Snapchat was developing on its own e-commerce component. Alongside movie ticketing company Fandango, they began work on an interface that would allow users to purchase tickets without leaving the app. With commerce in mind, Snapchat surreptitiously began work on an IPO - rumoured to be one of the biggest in years. But just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any snappier, Snapchat dropped its first hardware product, Spectacles, rebranded to Snap Inc., and showed why Evan Spiegel is the product design protege of a generation.

Over in APAC, Snapchat usage doubled since 2014, with more than 4 Million daily active users in Australia alone. Across the globe, Snapchat went live from the front line in Mosul, with an exceptionally executed foray into journalism, and a chilling tale of war that put humanity front and centre. In the US, Snapchat trumped Twitter at the US presidential debate, and delivered us all some much needed cheer with the World Lenses update. Rainbow-vomiting clouds, stardust, and sparkles gave new meaning to the phrase “Snap Happy.”

As the year drew to a close, Spectacle-dispensing Snapbots started to appear in different locations and competition for the coveted shades reached peak crazy. Brands began to ride the early wave, as the public waited not-so-patiently to get their hands on a pair. As if in consolation, Snap dropped yet another update, delivering a Shazam integration and the Group Chat feature.

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January 2017, and it’s almost beyond comprehension how far Snap has come in just one year. As many of us set about planning for the year ahead, it’s perhaps a timely thought: Snap Inc., the app conceived by a college dropout and born in a college bedroom; that turned down Facebook and flatly refused to monetise early, is now one of the fastest growing companies in the world - and about to break the stock-market at a cool $25 Billion valuation.

Snappy New Year, everyone.