The First Hit Generative AI Product After ChatGPT? Somehow, It’s Snapchat+
Snapchat users are flocking to its new AI-powered subscription. But is generative AI a feature or something more?
Snapchat+ hit another wild milestone over the holiday break. The $3.99-per-month premium subscription reached 7 million paying users, up by 2 million since September 2023 and more than double its April total. It now dwarfs Instagram and Twitter’s premium offerings, which have struggled to move beyond 1 million subscribers. And that’s perhaps because Snapchat+ is not a social media subscription at all.
For the $3.99, Snapchat offers users a slew of generative AI features, not simply status markers like blue checks. Snapchat+ subscribers get an AI image generator similar to Dall-E, an AI image extender that expands pictures based on what the tech thinks is out of frame, special functionality in Snapchat’s GPT-4-powered chatbot called My AI, and a ‘Dreams’ tool that uses selfies to create images of users in fantasy settings like alternate universes or movie posters.
Snapchat+, in other words, is a generative AI product, and a hit at that. And as the first breakout in the genre since ChatGPT, its success indicates that generative AI’s near-term future may be a bit different than many anticipated.
As opposed to a brand new experience, Snapchat+ is a collection of AI features bolted onto an existing app. You don’t go to Snapchat to use the AI features alone, they instead enhance everything you do there. The AI helps you send more vibrant pictures to friends, post more imaginative scenes to your story, and chat with a fast (and smart) AI bot as you wait for your friends to message back. It does not fundamentally transform the Snapchat experience, and yet it’s working. Snap tells me its users have sent 20 billion messages with My AI so far, including with a limited version that is now free to everyone.
Though ChatGPT debuted as the fastest-growing new consumer product ever, its underlying technology may be best used in Snapchat+ style experiences — not complete reimaginations of computing — at least for now. It may not reinvent search, but it will be a feature on top of Google. It may not replace the spreadsheet, but it’ll be in Excel if you want to chat with numbers. It may not create a new category of consumer apps, but it will embolden those app developers who adopt it quickly.
Snapchat finding success here early makes plenty of sense. AI image generation is fundamentally a communication technology, a tool for people to express themselves more vibrantly and imaginatively than they could previously. When stapled onto a camera-first messaging app, its ascent is logical.
And for Snap, generative AI is a welcome new business line, especially as it’s struggled to maximize the value of its ad space. Bloomberg estimated that 7 million paying Snapchat+ subscribers could bring in $330 million in revenue over a year. It’s a meaningful number for a company estimated to have made around $4.6 billion in 2023.
Generative AI may still live up to its lofty expectations, but it will likely take better, more advanced models to transform computing as we know it. In the meantime, companies applying the current tech will have a real opportunity to append it to their products and win. Snapchat, ever the product innovator, is simply the first to get there.
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Fidelity marked down its Twitter investment by 71.5% [Axios]
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Even the New Yorker says tipping culture is out of hand [New Yorker]
Recently on Big Technology Podcast…
We ran a bunch of awesome episodes over the break. They include:
Is Generative AI Killing Creativity Or Enhancing It? — With
Scott Belsky is the chief strategy officer and executive vice president of design and emerging products at Adobe. He joins Big Technology Podcast to examine the impact of generative AI on creativity. In this interview, we discuss whether AI homogenizes creativity or creates more possibilities. We talk about how Adobe is baking it into its products with generative fill. We also discuss creative attribution for images used to train generative AI models and how friction is actually good.
Palantir and Clearview Are Turning Ukraine’s War Into an R&D Lab — With
Vera Bergengruen is a senior correspondent at Time. She joins Big Technology Podcast after a recent trip to Ukraine, where she reported on how Palantir and Clearview are putting their technology in the Ukrainians’ hands, and using the war as a way to enhance their offering. We also discuss how Ukraine is embracing the moment and positioning itself as a military tech powerhouse with plans to export what it’s learned.
2023 In Review, 2024 Predictions — With
Casey Newton is the editor of Platformer and co-host of Hard Fork. He joins Big Technology Podcast for our annual look back and forward at the year that was and the year to come. In this episode, we both go through our standout moment from 2023, then make predictions on Gemini, GPT-5, the future of Google Search, Apple’s Vision Pro, X vs. Threads, Falling in love with bots, autonomous driving, and plenty more. Tune in for a fun lively discussion to close out 2023.
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