Have you ever sent a picture to a friend that you wish would just disappear? You’re not the only one; Reggie Brown thought the same thing. From that idea, Snapchat was born.
Snapchat is a one to one or group messaging app that allows users to send photos, videos and direct messages that automatically disappear after several seconds. About 150 million people use Snapchat everyday and they consume around 800 hours of video per second. With the messaging feature, one is able to comment or have a conversation. Snapchat also has the options of making “stories” which are photo or video messages that can be replayed for 24 hours, “memories” which are photos that can be saved and shared later, and the use of different stickers to enhance the photos or messages. About 26% of people who use Snapchat are between the ages 12 and 24.
Snapchat was not the first venture between owners Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. During their college years at Stanford, these two Kappa Sig brothers put their entrepreneurial skills to the test by launching their first website in 2009. Future Freshman LCC was created as a website to help students and their parents navigate the college admissions process. Sadly it never succeeded. They made a second attempt at success in the Internet world in 2011. That spring, their friend, Reggie Brown told Spiegel and Murphy that he wished the photos he was sending to a girl would disappear. Spiegel jumped on this idea and that July they launched Pictaboo. Pictaboo was an app that allowed users to send their friends pictures that quickly disappeared after being viewed. However, by the end of the summer Pictaboo only had 127 users. There were several disagreements and fights during that time about equity splits, leading to Brown leaving the company. Spiegel and Murphy kicked him out and locked all the emails and back end systems. In the Fall of 2011, they changed the name to Snapchat and promoted the app to their friends. The app soon became popular with high school students who were attracted to the idea of their images not being permanent after seeing the consequences of the Internet’s information being accessible forever. By spring of 2012, the company grew to over 100,000 users!
Right before Christmas 2012, Facebook launched Poke, a mobile app for sharing photos and making them disappear. It has been described as “a desperate Snapchat clone.” Soon after its development, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg reached out to Evan Spiegel asking him to meet to get to know one another. Zuckerberg tried to learn more about their visions and ideas for Snapchat and described Facebook’s new product Poke. However, as Snapchat continued to gain publicity, Poke became entirely forgotten. Snapchat is Facebook’s biggest threat. It appears that Snapchat users are continuously increasing while Facebook use among teenagers has significantly decreased. Later on, Instagram also tried to compete with Snapchat by launching a similar program called Instagram Direct. Snapchat has still managed to keep its competition at bay.
In 2013 over 60 million snaps were being sent per day. At that point, Reggie Brown filed a lawsuit against the company for breach of a joint venture. Even with the lawsuit at hand the company continued on, reaching 150 million snaps per day. After being forced out of the company and not given equity, Brown wanted one-third of Snapchat, which Spiegel’s team denied. In September 2014, both parties decided on a settlement that would resolve all claims. Snapchat agreed to pay Brown a total of $15.5 million in cash, $50 million of which was paid in 2014 and $107.5 million in 2016. This ended up being a lot less than the $500 million Brown originally asked for.
Over the years Snapchat continues to grow and stay ahead of its competitors. They are constantly creating new features to keep the app current and fresh so that its users are not looking to go to the next new thing. Some of the features include different filters, timestamps, temperature and speed overlays as well as the ability to REPLAY snaps. That May, Snapchat added text conversations and video chat opportunities to the app. In April they replaced Best friends with friend emojis that only you can see for extra privacy. They also added a low light camera to take pictures in darker lighting. Snapchat Stories allows users to create a series of pictures that all their followers can see for up to 24 hours. They added various lenses that can be activated while taking a selfie. Once the lenses are activated users can change their look to include filters such as having puppy ears to big lips. In 2017, Snap Maps was created. There were mixed feelings about this feature as was learned from a video of a group of teens giving their opinions. One girl said that she felt as if the government is watching over her. Others shared her sentiments stating that they were “creeped out” that someone can watch their every move. If you choose to use this feature, Snapchat will track your location and share it with selected friends. Given the mixed reviews, there is an option to opt out of this feature, known as “Ghost Mode.”
Snapchat found new ways to engage advertisers and offer them new ways to earn money from their big audience. They signed on with McDonald’s who became the first company to pay Snapchat to have a geofilter advertising campaign. Now even individuals can buy their own geofilter. In 2015, they introduced Discover, “a new page easily accessible from the Snapchat home screen that featured short-form ad content from a variety of different publishers and channels like Vox, BuzzFeed, CNN, and Food Network.”
During an interview with La Times, Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO stated, “We built our business on creativity.” “Five years ago, we came to the realization that the camera can be used for more than capturing memories,” Spiegel said. “We showed it can be used for talking. The dream for us is expanding the camera and what it can do for your life. It has capabilities beyond making memories.”
Today, Snapchat has approximately 66 million users. The company is worth $14.54 billion. Despite many offers, including one for three billion dollars from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and later one for $30 million dollars from Google, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy have remained involved owners of Snapchat. In September 2016, Snapchat rebranded and the company is now called Snap Inc. The company now includes a Snapchat, Spectacles, Bitmoji and Zenly. They changed the name because they felt that they needed a name that goes beyond just one product but doesn’t lose the value and fun of their team and brand. They decided to take the company public earlier this year but are reported to be holding on to 70% of the voting power and own 45% of the total stock.
Snapchat isn’t about capturing the picture-perfect moments but about communicating with all emotions. “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.” Snapchat is a place to be who you are. The fun of it is to just be you, no makeup, not taking a million shots till you get the best one, but just yourself.