A year after introducing Story Explorer as a way for people to view the events documented in Live Stories from many different angles, Snapchat is narrowing its aperture.
Snapchat has removed the Story Explorer feature from its Live Stories, a Snapchat spokesperson confirmed. The discontinued feature may be as much a victim of its own tangled user experience as of Snapchat’s heightened editorial efforts around Live Stories.
When Snapchat introduced Story Explorer in November 2015, CEO Evan Spiegel described it as a way to “provide depth” to its Live Stories, which stitch together the snaps people publicly post from live events, such as music festivals and sports games, into a “like you were there” stream. If Live Stories were Snapchat’s version of a live(-ish) TV production, Story Explorer was like putting people in the control room, which was the feature’s promise, and maybe its problem.
Within a few weeks of Story Explorer’s introduction, Snapchat arranged a deal with the NFL to use it in the league’s Live Stories. The NFL’s Live Stories already put fans in the stands from the comfort of their phones so that they could see how a game-winning field goal looked for someone sitting behind the end zone. But Story Explorer let them swipe up to replay the moment from the perspective of someone on the other side of the stadium or standing on the sidelines, or from anywhere else that people filmed the moment, uploaded it to Snapchat, tagged the corresponding Live Story and were selected for inclusion.
At least that was the promise. Sometimes Snapchat delivered on it in practice. But sometimes those supplementary snaps had nothing to do with the moment captured in the initial snap, like swiping down from the game-winning field goal to see a third-quarter extra point or the first-quarter kickoff. And sometimes Story Explorer would feature the same snap multiple times at different points in the Live Story.
Story Explorer’s primary predicament was that it was a cool concept wrapped in a complicated product, which has worked well for Snapchat at large but proved problematic for Story Explorer.
After swiping down to explore a Live Story’s moment from different perspectives, Snapchat surfaced those other perspectives in a horizontal carousel, and sometimes you could swipe down from those alternative perspectives to access even more options. It was like watching a rough cut of “Inception” through a kaleidoscope.
Lately, Snapchat has been taking a stronger directorial hand with its Live Stories. Throughout 2016, its Live Story team has gone from picking out which snaps to put in a Live Story to also augmenting those snaps with text overlays and illustrations, and even inserting pre-recorded videos to supplement them. For example, the Everest Live Story in June amended climbers’ photos and videos with factoids and animated maps of the ascent. And Live Stories honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game in April, respectively, featured archival footage of the civil rights leader and Lakers legend to add more weight to the streams.
A year ago, Snapchat looked to a technological feature to add depth to its Live Stories — and to increase the amount of time people spend watching those streams by giving them more to watch — but over the past year Snapchat has increasingly turned to its editorial team to add that depth in a different way, producing programs that reflect less of an upstart technology platform and more of a traditional media company.