Snapchat on a screen

Snapchat embraces developers with privacy-focused ‘Snap Kit’

Image credit: Dreamstime

Snap has confirmed rumours that it is opening up to developers. The development kit is focused on privacy - in what many have interpreted as a challenge to Facebook - and allows for login to other apps using a Snapchat account.

Snapchat was initially released in 2011 and has quickly grown to be one of the largest social media platforms, particularly among younger users. It is notable for being phone-focused, as well as for popularising stories (a fleeting series of a user's pictures and videos) and augmented reality filters: features which have been adopted by other social media platforms.

The possibility that Snap was preparing to launch a development kit was first reported by TechCrunch in May, following a leak.

Now, Snap has confirmed the rumours, stating in a release that the kit “brings the experiences you love on Snapchat into some of your favourite apps, without compromising your private account data.”

Snap Kit is largely made up of APIs designed to help developers integrate its trademark quirky, millennial-focused features across Snapchat and other apps. Creative Kit helps developers integrate branded stickers, filters and other features into the Snapchat camera, the Bitmoji Kit introduces Bitmojis (cartoon user avatars) into other apps, while the Story Kit embeds Snapchat Stories into other apps.

However, possibly the most intriguing API is the Login Kit, which allows users to log into other apps using their Snapchat account as a secondary login. This could allow the company – which is struggling for social media dominance with Facebook – to begin colonising other apps and websites by allowing Snapchat logins, as well as by plastering Snapchat features elsewhere.

When Snapchat login is used, details such as age, location and contacts with remain with Snap, rather than being shared with that app. Only display name (and optionally Bitmoji) will be displayed and apps will be automatically disconnected if inactive for 90 days.

This issue of privacy is at the heart of Snap’s announcement. On the Snap Kit website, Snap write: “We believe that privacy is essential to honest self-expression […] that’s why Snap Kit was designed to share minimal data.” Snap has stated that it will keep a close eye on developers, and will review all future API partners before their work is approved.

Although Snap has not made explicit mention of rival Facebook in its announcement of the Snap Kit, co-creator and CEO Evan Spiegel has previously called attention to Facebook’s poor reputation for privacy, such as by joking last month that, “We would really appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices.”

By emphasising privacy as key to its business, Snap may be able to frame itself as the responsible, respectful alternative to Facebook. This is timely, given the series of privacy scandals, most notably the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which Facebook has found itself embroiled in this year.

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