In September of 2011, Stanford University graduates Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy released the first version of Snapchat from Spiegel’s father’s living room. What was originally a product design class project, quickly became one of the most downloaded apps for iOS and Android devices. When Spiegel presented the idea to his classmates, they had trouble believing impermanent photos would entertain users and scoffed at the idea that it would be a viable business. Snapchat is currently the 7th most downloaded app this week according to the Apple App Store.
Snapchat is a unique and innovative photo sharing app that allows the photo to disappear after a maximum of ten seconds. The current version of the app also allows users to draw and/or write on their photo, and has a video feature which allows up to ten seconds of recording. Users can send requests to add friends to their contacts from their from their phones and through Facebook.
Although the app claims that your media will be deleted after it is sent, those who receive the message are able to screenshot the image(s) or take a photo using a separate device. According to digital forensics researcher Richard Hickman, the photos being sent through the app are not actually self-destructing, and are actually being saved on the phone. Decipher Forensics, a company in Utah have been able to recover photos from Android devices and they are looking into recovering photos from iPhone and iOS devices. Although recovering these images is not an easy task, Hickman and his colleagues warn those users who are contributing to the 150 million photos sent a day that what they think is gone forever can be found again. Controversy over what the app is being used for has also prompted debate over who should be allowed to use it. Young teens and adults are using app to send messages they believe will be gone forever, but are quickly finding how easy it is to recover the media.
Snapchat creators believe that because the photos (supposedly) disappear, the conversation remains natural and human. They believe the interaction provided by Snapchat is close to the level of normal communication which is also ephemeral. They have included a point system to keep the users on their toes and competitive. Those users who send and receive multiple Snapchats a day rack up more points than those who do not.
Currently Snapchat does not have a way of creating revenue. However, the company has received millions in funding, and is valued at almost $70 million by Benchmark Capital. Spiegel and Murphy have stated that they have no intention of selling their company, nor do they see themselves moving out of Spiegel’s father’s living room.
Snapchat and its creators are incredibly private. Snapchat is an innovative app that has given society a new way of communicating while staying entertained. The app provides a little competition but remains humorous. It is a simple idea, but is one that always keeps users coming back for more.