A Developer Ecosystem for Snapchat
on Wednesday, February 3, 2021
What is Snap Kit?
Snap Kit is the way we share the best of Snap’s technology with partners. Snap Kit products include Creative Kit, Login Kit, Camera Kit, Bitmoji Kit, Story Kit and Ad Kit. Hundreds of apps have integrated with Snap Kit, and nearly 150 million Snapchatters are engaging with these integrations every month.
In the early planning stages, we sat down with our Product Managers and started thinking about what it would mean to build a set of developer tools that are helpful for developers while reflecting Snap’s product and engineering values -- such as deleting snaps and chats by default, and privacy-by-design.
The first toolset we came up with was Creative Kit, an SDK that supports a deeper sharing experience from a third-party app into Snapchat. Snapchat is a place where close friends can communicate and express themselves in ways they wouldn’t on other platforms. So we thought, how can we make a sharing experience that is special for Snapchat? Snapchatters sent 1.3 trillion Snaps in 2019 and the concept of sharing a link and attaching it to a sticker in a Snap has proved to be an incredibly compelling experience.
Snapchatters can now share what they are doing in other apps while still having access to Lenses and other creative tools. Also, attaching a link to a Snap means that developers can build a virtuous cycle of in-app activity, sharing and linking back into their app from shared Snaps. This provides a huge boost to reach and engagement for the developer at no cost.
Snapchat’s audience contains 90% of 13-25 year olds and we knew that we could build a compelling identity product to help developers sign up and retain this audience. Login Kit is one of the pillars of Snap Kit, it allows users to share their identity with a developer in a controlled manner. It’s built on the industry standard OAuth2 framework, but with a number of features that make it compelling for Snapchatters. First is Bitmoji.
Login Kit lets you bring your Bitmoji avatar with you to other apps. Snapchatters have a strong bond to their Bitmoji, so having the power to kickstart a new profile in your app with something so personal is great for developers. Second is our focus on user data protection as a core value. Login Kit only exposes a limited set of scopes for developers including Display Name, Bitmoji and a user ID. We want users to trust that they can safely connect their Snapchat accounts to third-parties and know that we won’t let anyone abuse that trust.
From there, we expanded with more Kits for specific use-cases. Bitmoji Kit, a sticker picker with a much deeper integration with Bitmoji; App Stories, which lets you send your story off platform; and Ad Kit, which supports developers by giving them a new way to monetize their app as part of our Snap Audience Network.
Why does Snap want to build a developer ecosystem?
We believe that Snap’s Platform Ecosystem can help developers build an infinite range of experiences for our community both inside and outside of Snapchat. Our suite of developer products were created to unlock powerful new product experiences by making it easy for developers to connect with 249M daily Snapchatters. These experiences are easy for developers to build, simple for users, and fun to share with friends on Snapchat.
For example, building a feature like Stories is a monumental task for a small mobile development team, and that’s without even attempting to build up a user-base and friend graph. App Stories provides a drop-in feature that a single developer could get up and running in a day.
From printing Snaps to finding new friends, having a developer ecosystem creates an infinite possibility of features for developers to explore, and in return, our users get new experiences every day.
What principles guide the Snap Kit team and the design of the platform?
When we think about the future of Snap Kit we like to think about the core features of Snapchat: the Camera, Chat, Snap Map, Stories, Memories and the user profile. Our job on the Snap Kit team is to evaluate the different ways that we can expose these features to developers so Snapchatters can contribute or consume content via another app or service.
Think about what we have now: Login Kit, Bitmoji Kit and Verify from Snapchat share specific information from a user’s profile, like their Display Name and Bitmoji. Creative Kit and App Stories use the Camera, either sending content like a sticker to the Camera or sending content like a story from the Camera to an app. New features are often conceived around these ideas.
Some of the hardest parts of feature development on the Snap Kit team are the restrictions we place on ourselves around user privacy. It’s clear to any Snapchat user that privacy is at the center of our design philosophy. Deletion is our default, and control over your information is a core part of our privacy principles. It was important to us to design our developer APIs with the same strong user privacy principles that we use in the app. This often means inventing new protocols or putting additional effort into the user interface design.
What has been successful?
We have hundreds of app partners now. The ones that have been very successful have boiled down the experience to something that is really fun for a Snapchatter to use and share. They create a moment for their friends where they have this desire to swipe up, go to the App Store, download the app, and participate in a conversation. That’s not easy to get somebody to do, so you have to build an experience that is compelling. The apps that create that spark, that compulsion to participate in the conversation have grown a large user base.
Apps have seen tremendous growth by building a compelling sharing loop, which means they’ve encouraged their users to share something that Snapchatters want to engage with. Other apps like Infltr have tapped into our user’s creativity with new ways to enhance the camera experience. Who knows what the creativity of our dev community will build next? That’s what makes Snap Kit such an exciting product.
What are the latest Kits?
Verify with Snapchat
SMS costs are considerable for any app that has a significant user-base. Verify with Snapchat reduces that to zero because it lets developers replace their SMS verification flow with a simple deep-link into Snapchat. This is a great example of the value our scale can provide to developers. It’s also an example of how we’re not compromising on user privacy. We built the product in a way that never shares a user’s phone number with a developer but still provides the value to developers.
Camera Kit brings Snap’s AR platform into the hands of our developers. Allowing developers to leverage Snap’s world-class expertise with AR Lenses in any third-party application. This exciting new SDK brings the Lens carousel and Snapchat’s famous AR Lenses into any application.
These new Kits are just two more examples of our ecosystem philosophy. If we keep finding ways to add value for developers then they will find interesting use-cases and everybody wins from that.