Filters are one of Snapchat’s most ingenious features. They let you take an otherwise-boring photo or video (you talking to the camera) and make it amazing (you talking to the camera with rainbows shooting out of your mouth!). No wonder everyone’s now trying to capture some of that same magic in their own app. First Facebook bought MSQRD, and added its many masks and filters to its live video; now Twitter’s adding Stickers, which is a clever mash-up of all Snapchat’s filters into a single place.
Stickers work like hashtags: tap on one in a photo, and you’ll jump to a timeline of other people’s photos using that sticker.
Twitter stickers are basically emoji you can place on top of a photo. There’s sunglasses, and a guy surfing, and flowers, and hats, and you get the idea. Whenever you take a photo, you can drop in a few stickers before you tweet it. Just like that, poof: more fun photos. There’s a standard set of stickers, plus Twitter’s going to be making them for big events, too.
Events are where Twitter Stickers become a uniquely Twitterish feature. Stickers work like hashtags: tap on one in a photo, and you’ll jump to a timeline of other people’s photos using that sticker. It’s kind of like Snapchat’s Shared Stories, which bring together fun snaps from lots of people at events like the Oscars or the NBA Finals. Those Shared Stories have always been particularly threatening to Twitter, whose identity is based on being the place to go for what’s happening right this second.
Stickers, if they catch on (and with all things Twitter, that’s a big if), could do three important things for Twitter. It could incentivize people to share more first-person experiences of what’s happening right now, which is what the platform thrives on. It could also help people find both new audiences and new people to follow, since Stickers will coalesce interesting tweets on a single subject. And it could make money. A lot of money.
Stickers are an enormous business. (That sentence never stops being funny to write.) When messaging app Line went public in June, for instance, it revealed it had sold $286 million worth of stickers in the last year alone. Twitter’s not yet charging for any of its stickers, nor is it allowing advertisers or users to make and sell them, but “yet” is very much the operative word. That will happen. And it could mean big dollars for Twitter.
Stickers are only the latest in a string of product changes that are moving Twitter far beyond the 140-character text-based app it was for way too long. Pictures and video are everything to Twitter, and if Snapchat’s any indication, the more users get to do on top of those pictures and video, the more fun they’ll have. Now all Twitter needs is that feature where you can make yourself look like a dog with a really long tongue, and it’ll be right back in the game.