“Snapchat is not an app. It’s a camera company.”

That is what chief strategy officer Imran Khan told advertisers the other week.

He said that reinventing the camera is Snap Inc’s greatest opportunity. That’s why Snap Inc has just released a hardware product called “Spectacles” along with a strange dispenser to buy them from.

The last 24 months have been a constant march of innovation from Snap Inc. Starting with Geofilters in 2014, it has since released Discover, Lenses, Chat and Memories in an increasingly complex app. Spectacles is the first piece of hardware to come out since Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc., separating the two sides of the business.

Spectacles let users “snap” with a push of a button, taking photographs or ten-second video clips, which are then synced via Bluetooth to the user’s phone.

The price tag is 10% that of predecessor Google Glass: Snap’s spectacles cost $130, while Glass cost an eye-watering $1500.

Will Spectacles prove profitable? Perhaps.

But I’d like to sound a note of caution: one reason that Google Glass failed to take off among consumers was that many people found it socially unacceptable to use the glasses to browse online while talking to people. Put simply, you looked like a creep.

Perhaps Spectacles will be different and people won’t mind being unknowingly recorded. And this is certainly not Snap Inc’s first physical product.

It has also released an ice tray, a backpack, playing cards, a beach towel and yes, a plushie.

One has to wonder why Snapchat are so keen NOT to be seen as just a social network, given how successful they have been in that sphere. They have 50 million daily active users.

Is it because, like Twitter, the revenue stream is not sustainable?

To get $1.8bn in extra funding, Snap Inc have told investors they will be a billion dollar company next year, which means they will have to double their revenue.

But here is the thing: I don’t think they will make it. Not with Spectacles anyway. And at $20bn,the truth is Snap Inc is an over-valued company. Next year, the stock is going to take a dive.

Yes, Snap Inc have a huge number of users, and that is great. Eight of the 13 companies that have out-performed the S&P500 five years straight also have a lot of users.

But they have something else too. They routinely glean data about those users and then use that data to seamlessly improve their consumer’s experience. This is an approach pioneered by Google; every time you conduct a search you make their algorithm 0.000000003% better.

Amazon’s algorithm constantly looks at what you are shopping for and then displays the most relevant products. It also crawls millions of e-commerce sites to make sure its prices are the most competitive.

So, while Walmart and Best Buy change their prices over 50,000 times each month, Amazon changes its prices 2.5m times…a day.

Snapchat has an enormous user base, but they are not using their algorithm to push content or personalize the experience in any way. That’s a mistake.

Rival Instagram (owned by Facebook) recently changed its newsfeed from chronological to algorithmic. The result? Nike’s most viewed Snap on Snapchat got 66,000 views while the company’s Instagram story racked up a whopping 800K views in its first 24 hours.

Put simply, companies that use algorithms to learn from their users and harness that intelligence to improve their service are the most successful in the world.

You don’t need spectacles to see the future belongs to the algorithm – and Snap Inc are already losing focus.


Furthr’s director, Andy Pemberton, is a content expert with international experience. He edited Q magazine in London, launched Blender magazine in New York, which won Ad Age’s Launch of The Year, and also edited Spin magazine. He has written for the New York Times, GQ, Esquire, The Sunday Times, The National (Dubai), and the world’s largest newspaper, The Times of India. He writes columns for Yahoo.com, and the Huffington Post in the US, and trains social media, data visualization and content strategy. He has worked as a content consultant for the RNLI, Time Out, BT, and more.  He is also a leading data visualization expert, and includes the United Nations, the World Food Programme, and Aviva among his clients. He is a judge at this year’s British Media Awards.

Spectacles image via Spectacles.com