R. Dinakaran , heads the Internet edition of The Hindu Business Line and writes on technology and social media.

R Dinakaran

It's a snapchatty world

R. Dinakaran | Updated on December 25, 2013


Is Snapchat the next Facebook?

At least Facebook itself seems to think Snapchat is a threat. Recently, Instagram, the photo sharing app owned by Facebook, launched a new feature: Users could send pictures directly to their friends. Facebook's own Messenger app could also do it. A similar feature was launched by Twitter too.

Messaging apps like Whatsapp and Kik, Line, ChatOn and WeChat too have the feature, but none has been able to snap the hegemony of Snapchat.

What has made Twitter and Instagram to launch the direct picture option? And what makes Snapchat so successful?

Snapchat debuted a couple of years ago. And immediately became a craze. What the Snapchat app did was to allow users to send pictures directly to specific friends. And the pictures would self-destruct in seconds once the friends viewed the pictures.

Why is Snapchat so successful? There is no "anxiety about permanence." This has resulted in users sending pornographic pictures in thousands to their 'friends' with the assurance that the pictures will get automatically deleted. It is so popular and notorious that it is called a 'sexting app'. Its notoriety has made connectsafely.org to have a 'Parents' guide to Snapchat'. And if you think women would keep away from the app, a report reveals that 70 per cent of Snapchat users are women.

But Snapchat itself warns that though the pictures are deleted from their servers after they are viewed, "we cannot prevent the recipient(s) from capturing and saving the message by taking a screenshot or using an image capture device".

There are even Twitter handles that supposedly show captured Snapchat pictures (sorry, no names. Search yourself).

The success of Snapchat has also spawned apps that allow users to save Snapchat pictures! Snapchat has also enabled a new feature where users can view a picture for a second time before it gets deleted.

This has made it worse. But there are many who are least bothered about whether the pictures are deleted or permanent.

The craze for sending photos directly has also spawned several 'me-toos' like Wink!, InstaSnap and Clipchat. Clipchat claims to have "industrial strength encryption". InstaSnap claims you can "share photos with your mates, family, boyfriend or girlfriend with the safety and security of knowing that no screenshot can be saved."

Snapchat users now share 400 million snaps - photos or videos - each day. But Facebook is still slightly ahead, if you combine Instagram's stats. Facebook users share 350 million photos each day and Instagram users share 55 million.

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Published on December 25, 2013
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