Snapchat: Gamified Instagram, ephemeral Pinterest?

By Anne Collier

Don’t get me wrong. By blending the most popular elements of mobile technology in a new way, Snapchat is in a separate category – in fact, a category leader like Instagram or Pinterest. But it’s also a little in the Instagram category – photos + text, only with a time element to it (more about Instagram here). And it’s kind of a perishable Pinterest, where photos are scrapbooked or placed into collections, and like it but also the opposite of it (see this for more on Pinterest). All of which says a lot about the world of mobile apps – it’s moving us from giant services that are sort of all things to all (or huge swaths of) users to specific snippets of digital life that keep it with us wherever we go, making it unprecedentedly spontaneous and combining fun and sociality in clever new ways. Anyway, back to the example of the moment…

We already knew kids and teens, as only they can, are making Instagram their own – adding their communal social tweaks to what was just a photo-sharing and –enhancing app – right? Now they’re making Snapchat their own. It’s a mobile texting app with that same photo focus but an even lighter touch: an element of perishability. “The recipient can view the photo message for a set amount of time between one second and 10 seconds. Then it’s deleted forever from both people’s phones, and from Snapchat’s servers,” reports, thus eliminating the Web distribution problem recently studied by the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (see this). The perishability can mean an extra measure of privacy and safety (including privacy and safety from adult, including parental, scrutiny). “Early in its life, Snapchat had gained some notoriety for the idea that it was a teen-sexting app, and surely some of that must go on, but [Snapchat founder Evan] Spiegel downplayed that phenomenon, saying that a few seconds of looking at a picture is unlikely to get anyone going.” There’s “an element of realness,” maybe even rawness, to quick, perishable snapshots which “isn’t present in the self-edited version of themselves that many people present on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Snapchat people say. “Snapchat is also often used by kids to send pictures to their parents of their whereabouts,” they add. It is definitely more about spontaneity and playfulness than grandstanding or Photoshopping – and if the photos could be captured, they’d probably add up to a portrait of life, and social lives, on the fly. “Snapchat users are now sending each other 20 million ‘Snaps’ per day, for a grand total of 1 billion Snaps since the app launched last September [2011],” according to AllThingsD.

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