Snapchat’s doing what was once the unthinkable: opening up its app to outside developers.
Today, the app is officially launching SnapKit, Snapchat’s developer platform, which allows developers to bring Snapchat features, like Bitmoji and Stories, into their apps.
The move is one of the biggest updates Snap has made to its service, which has been resistant to outside developers in the past. But the change is an important one for the company as it struggles with slowing growth under relentless pressure from Facebook.
SnapKit is a series of APIs that let developers access different Snapchat features:
Creative Kit, which lets app makers put their own stickers inside the Snapchat camera (similar to what Uber did with its branded filters),
Bitmoji Kit which makes Bitmoji stickers available inside of other apps. (This was already technically possible, thanks to Bitmoji’s keyboard extension, but the feature should make the process easier.)
Login Kit, which is essentially Snapchat’s version of “login with Facebook,” letting you log into apps with your Snapchat credentials (with the added bonus of your Bitmoji avatar)
Story Kit, which lets apps pull in publicly-viewable Stories around specific topics
The company’s working with a handful of partners to kick things off, including Tinder, Postmates, Pandora, Poshmark, Eventbrite, and Giphy, and interested developers can apply for access on Snapchat’s website.
Each developer is using the new APIs in slightly different ways. Tinder, for example, is using Bitmoji Kit so people can add Bitmoji stickers to their in-app chats. Postmates is using Creative Kit to let users add stickers to their Snaps after they’ve placed an order. Poshmark, the e-commerce app for selling your clothes, is using Login Kit, Creative Kit, and Story Kit.
Snap’s trying to avoid making the same mistakes Facebook has…
Importantly, Snap’s trying to avoid making the same mistakes Facebook has with its developer policies. The company says applications from prospective developers will each be vetted by an actual human employee, and that developers will need to adhere to Snap’s privacy policies.
Additionally, developers won’t be able to access any data about a Snapchat user’s friends or any other personal information other than their display name and Bitmoji avatar. And Snap Kit will automatically disconnect access from any app that isn’t used after 90 days.
In this way, Snap Kit is clearly trying to position itself as a kind of anti-Facebook: a privacy-friendly developer platform that still manages to make Snapchat play nice with other apps.
But for Snap, the bigger question will be whether or not its new developer partners can rejuvenate the service. Snap has struggled in recent months with slowing user growth, disappointing earnings, and backlash against its redesign that’s making both problems worse.
Bringing in third-party apps could help turn things in Snap’s favor. For one, it will help the company reach people outside of the confines of its own apps, which could help seriously juice its engagement metrics. And it could incentivize users who have fallen away from the service with a reason to come back.
Perhaps just as importantly, the platform offers users a social login feature that’s not powered by Facebook. At a time when distrust for the massive social network is at an all-time high, thanks largely to its overly lax developer policies, Snap can now offer up its own privacy-conscious alternative to developers and users.
Of course, Snap will still have an uphill battle if it hopes to truly challenge Facebook’s dominance, which has a several-year head start. But it does give Snap a chance to turn the prevailing narrative — that Facebook’s ruthlessly stomping all over Snapchat — around.