In September 2011 Stanford University students Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy produced the initial release of the photo messaging application Snapchat, famously launching the program "from Spiegel's father's living room." Users of the app take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. Photographs and videos sent through the app are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps, after which the photos or videos are hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from Snapchat's servers. In December 2013 the range was from 1 to 10 seconds. When I reviewed the evolution of Snapchat in January 2021 the site and its content had evolved significantly, as will be apparent from my comments with that date.
In November 2013 it was reported that Snapchat was sharing 400 million photos per day—more than Facebook.
"Founder Evan Spiegel explained that Snapchat is intended to counteract the trend of users being compelled to manage an idealized online identity of themselves, which he says has "taken all of the fun out of communicating". Snapchat can locate a user's friends through the user's smartphone contact list. Research conducted in the UK has shown that, as of June 2013, half of all 18 to 30-year-old respondents (47 percent) have received nude pictures, while 67 percent had received images of "inappropriate poses or gestures".
"Snapchat launched the "Snapchat Stories" feature in early October 2013 and released corresponding video advertisements with the tagline "It's about time." The feature allows users to create links of shared content that can be viewed an unlimited number of times over a 24-hour period. The "stories" are simultaneously shared with the user's friends and content remains for 24 hours before disappearing.
"Another controversy surrounding the rising popularity of Snapchat in the United States relates to a phenomenon known as sexting. This involves the sending and receiving of explicit images that often involve some degree of nudity. Because the application is commonly used by younger generations, often below the age of eighteen, the question has been raised whether or not certain users are technically distributing child pornography. For this reason, many adults disapprove of their children's use of the application. Snapchat's developers continue to insist that the application is not sexting-friendly and that they do not condone any kind of pornographic use.
"On November 14, 2013, police in Laval, Quebec, Canada arrested 10 boys aged 13 to 15 on child pornography charges after the boys allegedly captured and shared explicit photos of teenage girls sent through Snapchat as screenshots.
"In February 2013, a study by market research firm Survata found that mobile phone users are more likely to "sext over SMS than over Snapchat" (Wikipedia article on Snapchat, accessed 12-12-2013).
As of January 2021 the Wikipedia article on Snapchat provided a very different description of SnapChat and its content:
"One of the principal features of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are usually only available for a short time before they become inaccessible to their recipients. The app has evolved from originally focusing on person-to-person photo sharing to presently featuring users' "Stories" of 24 hours of chronological content, along with "Discover," letting brands show ad-supported short-form content. It also allows users to keep photos in the "my eyes only" which lets them keep their photos in a password-protected space. It has also reportedly incorporated limited use of end-to-end encryption, with plans to broaden its use in the future.
[Snapchat]" ... has become known for representing a new, mobile-first direction for social media, and places significant emphasis on users interacting with virtual stickers and augmented reality objects. As of March 2020, Snapchat had 229 million daily active users. On average more than 4 billion Snaps are sent each day. Snapchat is known to be popular among the younger generations, particularly those below the age of 16, leading to many privacy concerns for parents."
What particularly caught my attention was the huge business that posting videos on SnapChat and its competing site, TikTok, had become for celebrity posters, with the company "distributing over $1 million USD every day to Snapchatters" according to a January 15, 2021 article in The New York Times. This revenue stream from short videos taken by cell phones and posted by users about themselves represented, as far as I could tell, a new style of Internet business.