Snapchat has spent years closed off to developers — it never offered a public API like competitors Facebook and Twitter that let outsiders build features using the app or its data.
That’s about to change. Snap announced today that it is launching four new APIs, including a Snap login API that will let people use their Snapchat username to create accounts on other apps, and what amounts to a Snap camera API, which will let people share things from other apps directly to their Snapchat Story.
Another API will let you use your Bitmoji avatar inside other apps, like Tinder‘s messaging feature, and the last API will let developers use public snaps (user photos and videos) to create themed Stories on a third-party app or website. Snap tipped its hand on the APIs a few months ago, pushing some of the details live to the app early, but hasn’t commented on them until now.
The moves should, in theory, help Snapchat grow its brand with people who don’t use the app. If people start seeing Stories on third-party websites, it could help encourage more sign-ups, or at the very least help people understand what Snapchat does. (This has worked to varying degrees with Twitter — tweets are everywhere.)
The Snapchat login option could also help retain existing users. If you rely on your Snapchat account to get into other apps, you probably won’t delete it.
Snap’s timing with these APIs opens the company to some scrutiny. Facebook just spent the past three months trying to clean up a mess that was created because the company shared too much user data through its login API. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Recode in March that his original belief that people wanted to bring their Facebook data to use inside other apps was “wrong.” There could be a lot of scrutiny on Snap’s APIs, both from the press and from users, given the environment Facebook has created these past few months.
It’s also clear, though, that Snap learned from some of Facebook‘s mistakes. Snap‘s APIs share much less information with developers than Facebook’s APIs did. Snap’s login API, for example, only gives developers access to a person’s Snapchat username. It does not give them other demographic information like age or location, and Snap VP of Product Jacob Andreou says, “we definitely are not planning on ever making the full friends list available to developers.”
Snap also plans to manually review all API partners. “Any future third-party Snap Kit app integration submitted to us will need to go through a review and approval process to make sure we know how their integration will work,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email.
Snap likes to say that its privacy policies are stricter than Facebook’s — CEO Evan Spiegel was particularly clear about that at Recode’s annual Code Conference last month — and with these APIs, Snap‘s trying to prove it.