What Is Snapchat?: The Beginner’s Guide to the Snapchat App

What Is SnapchatWhat is Snapchat? Why is it so popular? And why is it worth so much?

It’s no surprise that social media use intensifies during the summer season, with more people enjoying long weekends and vacation days than at any other time of the year. One of the social media apps to have grown fastest is “Snapchat,” owned by Snapchat, Inc. The company is not yet listed on Wall Street, but it’s all the rage among young people and rumors are getting louder of a potential buyout or initial public offering (IPO).

For those above the age of 30, the app is a bit of a mystery. It’s no wonder searches for “What is Snapchat?,” “How to Snapchat,” and “Snapchat score” have soared over the past year.

For the beginners, let’s dig into this story a little deeper…

What Is Snapchat?

Serious folks, some of them wearing bowties and Hermes foulards, think Snapchat is a big deal in business. One of the latest IPO valuations floating about is that Snapchat is worth $20.0 billion. (Source: “Why Is Snapchat Worth $20B? The Value of Implementing Trends,” Forbes, May 27, 2016.)

However, many people still struggle to understand what Snapchat represents. What is it? Well, a talkative crocodile it is not, despite what its name might suggest.

The fastest (snappiest?) way to describe Snapchat is that it is a social app with a timer—or, if you like, a timed app. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms, what users choose to share on Snapchat has a shelf life of up to 24 hours. Items posted or shared on Snapchat disappear unless users deliberately save them in the “Memories” section or take a screenshot. If they are pictures, users can also store them in their smartphone’s images or camera roll file. Of course, the Memories feature and camera roll storage is only available to the original poster; viewers can only take a screenshot and the original poster is notified.

Snapchat image posts and videos have a 10-second limit for viewing or recording. Users can add special filters or effects to images and videos before sending them out or adding them to a collection called a “Snapchat Story.” Individual images and videos can be sent to selected friends, who can be added by username or by taking a picture of a coded image, and Stories are accessible to all of the users followers.

Despite its social nature, Snapchat also stresses privacy as a major draw. This is essential given the sort of images and videos some daring users might send over an app with an expiry date. There is a section called “Who Can…Contact Me.” This has simple-to-use settings that warn you anytime a new user wants to “snap” you, but blocks content until you add the user to your friends.

Additionally, images and videos will be destroyed once they are delivered and the preset viewing time expires. Receivers are able to re-view an image or video by double-clicking the content, but senders will be informed if they do so. As well, senders will receive a notification if a receiver takes a screenshot of the sent content.

The camera interface uses very few buttons and instead relies on intuitive swiping. When first opening the app, swiping to the left opens chat, the camera is center, and swiping to the right reveals the “Stories” feature. After taking a picture, users can add text, draw on the image, or select from filters with a swipe to the left. When taking a “selfie” (that is, taking a picture of yourself), tapping your face on your phone’s screen will allow you to access even more filters that are applied to the face. That’s where you’d find the popular dog filter.

Oh, and users in the snapchat world are known as “Snapchatters.”

Why Is Snapchat So Popular?

While the above details fail to explain Snapchat’s popularity and its alleged value, what is clear is that Snapchat is the most popular—in the sense of talked about—social network. It has obviously hit a need in society. It has grown too quickly to be a passing fad. Its potential market value lies in the way it has attracted users—especially younger users, the so-called millennials and the most coveted target for any social media app.

What the millennials appreciate is spontaneity, and they get it in spades on Snapchat. It is a veritable tool of spontaneity: messages and videos are sent and disappear within a day or less.

Moreover, Snapchat is noted for what it doesn’t have as much as for what it does have. For example, you can’t comment on or “like” posts and there is no way of knowing how many followers you have.

In this way, unlike Facebook, there is less temptation to boast on a profile in order to create a certain self-image. It is, quite simply, a spontaneity platform, free of pretense, yet filled with possibility. Perhaps the popularity of Snapchat also comes from the fact that users can be much more daring.

What Is Snapchat Worth?

For investors, Snapchat, given its youth-centric userbase (40% of users are under the age of 18), is a great platform for advertising. While Snapchat is not for everyone, those who “get it” find it an essential social media tool. The biggest testament of Snapchat’s business and social success may well be the fact that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has done its best to imitate it.

Facebook has made no apologies for the fact that it has copied the “Snapchat idea” through its “Instagram” app. Through Instagram, Facebook has made its move to try to capture Snapchat’s audience after failing on several occasions to acquire Snapchat itself. Mark “$2.0 billion in profits” Zuckerberg would love to get his hands on Snapchat with its 150 million active users per day. However, in 2013, Snapchat rejected a $3.0-billion bid from Zuckerberg. Since then, the social media pioneer has tried to buy it or eliminate without success. (Source: Ibid.)

Now, Zuckerberg is playing the social media equivalent of hardball. In early July, he pulled the first jab, introducing retractable posts on “Messenger.” Now, he has spilled the honey with which he hopes to attract the very millennials that like Snapchat. In the coming weeks, anyone updating Instagram for “iOS” and “Android” devices will be able to create and display “Instagram Stories.” Users can post images and videos to this feature and rather than being added to their gallery, they will disappear in 24 hours. Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, admitted that Snapchat was the direct inspiration for his company’s new format.

The Bottom Line on Snapchat

So, ultimately, what is Snapchat, especially moving forward?

It’s still unclear, but the hint comes from how it has grown, especially among the millennials. They can freely share their exploits without the fear of leaving indelible traces behind. That can appeal to those wanting to share personal and “spicy” moments, as well as those engaged in sensitive political or social debates—without having to fear offending anybody for a long enough period that anyone important would notice.

In this day and age, one might say Snapchat offers the most intense freedom of speech experience. That’s why it’s popular and that’s why it’s worth $19.0 billion.

Image source: Flickr; Image copyright 2016, Barn Images