The self-destructing selfie

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By Rebekah Williams

Snapchat offers a change to social media as it grows and gains popularity

Have you noticed a rise in the number of students walking around, taking pictures of themselves?

These “selfies,” as they are often called, are being sent across campus, across the nation, and across the world via the application Snapchat.

Founded by five Stanford University students in 2011, Snapchat has quickly become a social-network phenomenon.

Snapchat is a photo messaging application, available on smartphones, which enables users to capture pictures and videos, perform various forms of editing and send them to their choice of contacts who also have the application.

Possible forms of editing include ink drawings and text boxes, allowing the user to caption the image.

Those five Stanford students seemed to have struck the proverbial gold, because earlier this week, Snapchat was appraised at around $3.5 billion.

The public appraisal may even hit $4 billion very soon with $200 million coming in from China’s Internet giant, Tencent.

Currently, there are five million daily users who send a combined 350 million photos per day.

­Of those users, the vast majority are between the ages of 15 and 25, and 80 percent reside within the U.S.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 9 percent of American cell phone owners use Snapchat.

The novelty of this application is its self-destruct mode.  Once opened, the pictures and videos last only for a few seconds before they are deleted. The sender determines the length of time that the message can be viewed, ranging from one to 10 seconds.

Contrary to most in the digital industry one of the founders, Evan Spiegel, believes that “it would be better for everyone if we deleted everything by default and saved the things that are important to us.”

Because of how temporary the picture is, senders don’t feel the need to pose or make sure the picture is of great quality.

In fact, the majority of the pictures sent over Snapchat are quickly taken, silly photos, sent without doctoring or added filters. The images, rather, are spontaneous and personal.

If the recipient of the message takes a screenshot of the image, he or she is essentially taking a permanent picture of the temporary image, and the sender is notified.

However, many see Snapchat as a way to communicate with increased privacy.

While social media websites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have dominated the sphere of social media for years now, causing people to inform all 500 of their “friends” and “followers” of their every move, Snapchat allows people to send more personal messages just to their intended recipients.

It allows for a more personal communication than the social media websites, while remaining more entertaining than a simple text or email.

Despite its success, it has taken a hit in the media.

With its high popularity among teenagers, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential to send inappropriate pictures.

Commonly referred to as “sexting,” Snapchat may offer false confidence that sexually explicit pictures sent over this application will be deleted before any serious repercussions could occur.

When it was made apparent to Spiegel that the idea of disappearing pictures caused people to immediately assume its purpose was for sexting, he realized he needed to advertise Snapchat in a different way.

“Now, the growth of the service shows it’s about a lot more,” Spiegel said.

With the success that they’ve had, the founders of Snapchat are looking towards the future.

“Going forward there are lots of different revenue models. One we talk about is in-app transactions … because we don’t have to build a sales team to make cool things that people want to pay for,” Spiegel said.

Regardless of the directions that Snapchat decides to take, it is likely to have a successful and prosperous future.

Snapchat is available for free on both the Android “Play Store” and the iPhone App market.

More information about Snapchat can be found at snapchat.com.

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