Snapchat is probably the hottest app in the world of social messaging these days. It originally generated buzz at launch as an awesome way to send photos, one to one, without leaving a trail behind. The immediate thought was that it was a perfect way to “sext” (send errr…racey photos of yourself to someone privileged enough to receive it) and it does lend itself to that despite its now well advertised privacy issues since you can in fact screenshot the photos if you really care to. But people who want to send naked pics to each other will do so with or without Snapchat and have done so one way or another since the beginning of time. Snapchat has hardly created a nation of sexting just because the photos theoretically disappear right away. What it has done, maybe inadvertently, is it has created the preferred way to communicate for people (particularly teens) who are looking for a way to have fun and be silly with friends but not potentially pay for it years down the line.
Similar to apps like Vine, Snapchat has actually created a new form of communication. It’s not a photo app in a traditional sense and it’s not a texting app either, you can draw on it using your finger, but it’s not an app for making art. Similarly, one could argue that Vine is not a traditional video creation app because of the way you can stitch together frames up to six seconds which has inspired people to be a lot more creative than just shooting a straight video and posting it. The UX and design of Snapchat has encouraged people to be much more spontaneous and personal and that’s where it wins. Sure, the recipient of your picture of you sticking out your tongue could be saved via screenshot, but why would anyone do that? And at the end of the day, so what? It wouldn’t show up in a Google search like other photos might anyway.
Where Snapchat has an advantage is in its simplicity which is paramount on mobile. Once you open the app it gets right to the point. Here’s the camera, now snap and send. Don’t think too long. It’s like being drunk at a bar and trying a lame pick up line. Was it dumb? Yeah..but who cares it’s something to have a laugh about. Next. Its disposable nature encourages you to let your guard down as opposed to Facebook and Instagram where a feed shows a visual record for all to see and you think extra long about what you’re posting. The fact that you can draw something on it adds a nice extra layer of creativity that other social messaging apps don’t.
We’ve seen the web becoming much more visual and the same holds true for mobile. People love pictures because they are in fact worth a thousand words and can be consumed much more quickly, are more personal and are much richer to experience. It’s part of the reason why Instagram itself is so successful. But Instagram has a feed and Snapchat doesn’t which is a huge difference. Currently with Instagram you can’t send one to one photos (though you can email it) and while you can delete a photo, it doesn’t happen automatically. As we’ve seen with countless other competing apps, function does not equal experience. Could Instagram enter this category as it looks for new ways to grow? Maybe…but right now Snapchat owns the experience and ownership of an experience is the key in competition.