Snapchat Real Time Picture Chatting
You may not have heard of Snapchat. But if there are teenagers or 20-somethings in your life, it’s a safe bet that they have.
Snapchat is a mobile app which lets users share images or videos that disappear after a few seconds. That’s right — they vanish forever in the time it takes you to read a tweet.
In a little over a year since it was released by a Stanford student and his recently graduated business partner, Snapchat has quietly amassed millions of users and now claims to process more than 30 million messages a day. Some bloggers have called it the “next Instagram.”
Not bad for a mobile tool which, rightly or wrongly, is often cited for one very specific ability — the “sexting” of naughty images to other users.
Combining cameras; young people; and secret, self-destructing messages could only lead to trouble. In an age when young people are constantly being warned not to post inappropriate things online, Snapchat offers a degree of freedom by letting users share unfiltered thoughts or images without much fear of reprisal.
In some cases teenagers are using the app to safely explore the sort of silly, unguarded, and sometimes unwise ideas that have always occupied the teenage brain … in a manner that won’t haunt them forever. In other words, they’re chatting with Snapchat precisely because it’s not like chatting with Facebook.
Not to be outdone, Facebook last month actually launched a virtually identical social app called Facebook Poke, a mobile re-imagining of one of the site’s earliest, and ultimately most ridiculed, features. Both apps let users send images or short videos and messages via their smartphones. The sender can choose how long the message will be visible — up to 10 seconds — before it self-destructs.
If Facebook was looking to flex its billion-user muscle to take over the instant-chat market, it doesn’t appear to be working. Last Thursday, Snapchat was the sixth-most popular free app for Apple’s mobile devices. Facebook Poke wasn’t even in the top 100. A look by analytics firm Topsy showed that mentions of Snapchat on Twitter spiraled to more than 212,000 on New Year’s Day, up from about 16,000 on December 20, the day before Facebook introduced Poke. Facebook Poke got 1,822 mentions on January 1. Instead of siphoning users from Snapchat, Facebook’s move appears instead to have launched the Snapchat app to new heights
So, does that mean young, socially savvy users are sending millions of racy pictures of themselves through cyberspace every day? It’s difficult to say. Technological advances and nudie shots have shared a strong, if secretive, relationship for centuries. From the printing press to pay-per-view to VCRs, to new tech (particularly the kind that creates new levels of privacy) has always been followed closely by folks figuring out how to personally or professionally profit from this type of questionable usage.
There are clear, and sometimes ugly, signs that sexting is common on Snapchat. A Tumblr blog full of nude and semi-nude images, was started up last month by a “party photographer” who says he put out an open call for salacious shots on Twitter and was overwhelmed by the response. Another Snapchat-themed blog on Tumblr is filled with complaints about male users sharing unseemly photos of themselves.
Snapchat users may think their naughty images will never come back to haunt them. But people can still grab screenshots from their phones, even though both Snapchat and Facebook Poke notify the sender if the recipient of an image takes a shot of it.
And last week, Buzzfeed exposed an apparent security flaw that it says lets recipients retrieve videos sent via Snapchat. All of which should be bad news when young people and questionable decisions collide amongst the dark portals of the Internet.
So, if not for naughty bits and bytes, what exactly is the purpose of sending images and videos that rapidly disappear? In a blog post celebrating its first anniversary, Team Snapchat shared a vision that tries to come off as downright wholesome. “We believe in sharing authentic moments with friends,” it read. “It’s not all about fancy vacations, sushi dinners, or beautiful sunsets. Sometimes it’s an inside joke, a silly face, or greetings from a pet fish.”
Bottom line – if you have teens or tweens with smart phones, perhaps you should have a look at the Apps they use and get ready to share your parental guidance and wisdom. If you wand additional information about this app just “Google” Snapchat.
If you want additional information about this app “Google” Snapchat