Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Fast-Growing Photo-Messaging App Snapchat Launches on Android

Sometimes it’s the tiniest of tweaks that make one product seem totally different. Here is what the mobile appĀ Snapchat does: It allows users to take a photo with their phone, overlay a little bit of text, and send it to another user. 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.

Having been available only for iPhone, Snapchat has amassed an extremely active audience of mostly young people. Today, it is launching for Android.

According to Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, who had planned to demo his app at our postponed Dive Into Mobile conference, 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.

See below for a video interview I did with Spiegel after we had to call off the conference due to the approaching Hurricane Sandy.

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 Spiegel downplayed that phenomenon, saying that a few seconds of looking at a picture is unlikely to get anyone going.

In fact, in a clever hack, the app actually alerts other users when a recipient takes a screenshot of one of their Snaps.

Spiegel said Snapchat is often used for “selfies,” or front-facing camera self-portraits. “It’s fun to be ugly,” he noted, when you know that your photo will quickly expire, never to be seen again.

That brings an element of realness, Spiegel argued, that isn’t present in the self-edited version of themselves that many people present on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So yes, it’s a photo app — but perhaps it’s a different kind of photo app.

Team Snapchat on a trip to Norway: Daniel Smith, David Kravitz, Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel

Snapchat is also often used by kids to send pictures to their parents of their whereabouts, so the app’s demographics are between 13 years to 25 years of age, with a growing contingent that’s aged 40 and over. And 30 percent of Snaps are sent to groups.

Spiegel — who would clearly much rather talk about tech philosophy than sexting — argued that the text-photo combo that expires is more of a pure and mobile-native form of communication than social networking.

“The intent to preserve and capture something is very different from the urge to share, but they had become intertwined,” he said. “Creating a representation of yourself for the Internet stopped making sense when we were all on phones and connected everywhere.”

Snapchat has seed funding from investors including Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company started out of Stanford, but is now run out of Spiegel’s father’s house in Los Angeles, removed from the Silicon Valley hustle and bustle. It is being aggressively courted by venture capitalists now.

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