Snapchat is an American multimedia instant messaging app and service developed by Snap Inc., originally Snapchat Inc. 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 was created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, former students at Stanford University. It 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 July 2021, Snapchat had 293 million daily active users, a 23% growth over a year. On average more than four billion Snaps are sent each day. Snapchat is popular among the younger generations, particularly those below the age of 16, leading to many privacy concerns for parents.
The app was relaunched as Snapchat in September 2011, and the team focused on usability and technical aspects, rather than branding efforts. One exception was the decision to keep a mascot designed by Brown, "Ghostface Chillah," named after Ghostface Killah of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.
On May 8, 2012, Reggie Brown sent an email to Evan Spiegel during their senior year at Stanford, in which he offered to re-negotiate his equitable share regarding ownership of the company. Lawyers for Snapchat responded by insisting that he had never had any creative connection to the product. The attorneys also accused Brown of committing fraud against Spiegel and Murphy by falsely claiming to be a product inventor. On behalf of their clients, the law firm concluded that Reggie Brown had made no contributions of value or worth, and was therefore entitled to a share of nothing.Original document, "151160912 Snapchat Reggie Brown Declaration", Sam Biddle Documentcloud, July 10, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2016. In September 2014, Brown settled with Spiegel and Murphy for $157.5 million and was credited as one of the original authors of Snapchat.
In their first blog post, dated May 9, 2012, CEO Evan Spiegel described the company's mission: "Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect." He presented Snapchat as the solution to stresses caused by the longevity of personal information on social media, evidenced by "emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the internet.
In June 2013, Snapchat version 5.0, dubbed "Banquo," was released for iOS. The updated version introduced several speed and design enhancements, including swipe navigation, double-tap to reply, an improved friend finder, and in-app profiles. The name is a reference to the ghostly hero from Shakespeare's Macbeth, a character in the play who is ultimately seen to be victorious over evil. Also in June 2013, Snapchat introduced Snapkidz for users under 13 years of age. Snapkidz was part of the original Snapchat application and was activated when the user provided a date of birth to verify his/her age. Snapkidz allowed children to take snaps and draw on them, but they could not send snaps to other users and could only save snaps locally on the device being used.
According to Snapchat's published statistics, as of May 2015, the app's users were sending 2 billion videos per day, reaching 6 billion by November. By 2016, Snapchat had hit 10 billion daily video views.Kellen Beck, "Snapchat users are watching 10 billion videos a day", Mashable, April 28, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2016. In May 2016, Snapchat raised $1.81 billion in equity offering, suggesting strong investor interest in the company.Anya George, "Snapchat raises $1.81 billion in new funding round", Yahoo, May 26, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016. By 31 May 2016, the app had almost 10 million daily active users in the United Kingdom. In February 2017, Snapchat had 160 million daily active users, growing to 166 million in May.
Investel Capital Corp., a Canadian company, sued Snapchat for infringement on its geofiltering patent in 2016. They were seeking "monetary compensation and an order that would prohibit California-based Snapchat from infringing on its patent in the future."
In September 2016, Snapchat Inc. was renamed Snap Inc. to coincide with the introduction of the company's first hardware product, Spectacles—smartglasses with a built-in camera that can record 10 seconds of video at a time. On February 20, 2017, Spectacles became available for purchase online.
Snapchat announced a redesign in November 2017, which proved controversial with many of its followers. CNBC's Ingrid Angulo listed some of the reasons why many disliked the update, citing that sending a snap and re-watching stories was more complicated, stories and incoming snaps were now listed on the same page, and that the Discover page now included featured and sponsored content. A tweet sent by Kylie Jenner in February 2018, which criticized the redesign of the Snapchat app, reportedly caused Snap Inc. to lose more than $1.3 billion in market value. Over 1.2 million people signed a Change.org petition asking the company to remove the new app update.
In December 2019, App Annie announced Snapchat to be the 5th most downloaded mobile app of the decade. The data includes figures for iOS downloads starting from 2010 and Android downloads starting from 2012. Snapchat acquired AI Factory, a computer vision startup, in January 2020 to give a boost to its video capabilities.
In November 2020, Snapchat announced it would pay a total of $1 million a day to users who post viral videos. The company has not stated the criteria for a video to be considered viral or how many people the payout would be split between. The promotion, called Snapchat Spotlight, is intended to run until the end of the year, although the company indicated it will continue if it's successful.
Private message photo snaps can be viewed for a user-specified length of time (1 to 10 seconds as determined by the sender) before they become inaccessible. Users were previously required to hold down on the screen in order to view a snap; this behavior was removed in July 2015 The requirement to hold on the screen was intended to frustrate the ability to take of snaps; the Snapchat app does not prevent screenshots from being taken but can notify the sender if it detects that it has been saved. However, these notifications can be bypassed through either unauthorized modifications to the app or by obtaining the image through external means. One snap per day can be replayed for free. In September 2015, Snapchat introduced the option to purchase additional replays through Microtransaction. The ability to purchase extra replays was removed in April 2016.
Friends can be added via usernames and phone contacts, using customizable "Aztec Code," or through the "Add Nearby" function, which scans for users near their location who are also in the Add Nearby menu. 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."
In July 2016, Snapchat introduced a new, optional feature known as "Memories." Memories allow snaps and story posts to be saved into a private storage area, where they can be viewed alongside other photos stored on the device, as well as edited and published as snaps, story posts, or messages anytime. When shared with a user's current story, the memory would have a timestamp to indicate its age. Content in the Memories storage area can be searched by date or using a local object recognition system. Snaps accessible within Memories can additionally be placed into a "My Eyes Only" area that is locked with a Personal identification number (PIN). Snapchat has stated that the Memories feature was inspired by the practice of manually scrolling through photos on a phone to show them to others. In April 2017, the white border around old memories was removed. While originally intended to let viewers know the material was old, TechCrunch wrote that the indicator "ended up annoying users who didn’t want their snaps altered, sometimes to the point where they would decide not to share the old content at all."
In May 2017, an update made it possible to send snaps with unlimited viewing time, dropping the previous ten-second maximum duration, with the content disappearing after being deliberately closed by the recipient. New creative tools, namely the ability to draw with an emoji, videos that play in a loop, and an eraser that lets users remove objects in a photo with the app filling in the space with the background, were also released.
In July 2017, Snapchat started allowing users to add links to snaps, enabling them to direct viewers to specific websites; the feature was only available for brands previously. Additionally, the update added more creative tools: A "Backdrop" feature lets users cut out a specific object from their photo and apply colorful patterns to it in order to bring greater emphasis to that object, and "Voice Filters" enable users to remix the sounds of their voices in the snap. Voice Filters was previously available as part of the feature enabling augmented reality lenses, with the new update adding a dedicated speaker icon to remix the audio in any snap.
The "Lens" feature, introduced in September 2015, allows users to add real-time effects into their snaps by using face detection technology. This is activated by long-pressing on a face within the viewfinder. In April 2017, Snapchat extended this feature into "World Lenses," which use augmented reality technology to integrate 3D rendered elements (such as objects and animated characters) into scenes; these elements are placed and anchored in 3D space.
On October 26, 2018, at TwitchCon, Snap launched the Snap Camera desktop application for macOS and Windows PCs, which enables use of Snapchat lenses in videotelephony and live streaming services such as Skype, Twitch, YouTube, and Zoom. Snapchat also launched integration with Twitch, including an in-stream Software widget for Snapcodes, the ability to offer lenses to stream viewers and as an incentive to channel subscribers. Several video game-themed lenses were also launched at this time, including ones themed around League of Legends, Overwatch, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
In August 2020, Snapchat collaborated with four TikTok influencers to launch Augmented Reality (AR) lenses to create a more interactive experience with users. The lenses now incorporate geo-locational mapping techniques to incorporate digital overlays onto real world surfaces. These lenses track 18 joints across the body to identify body movements, and generate effects around the body of the user. Advertising is now also utilizing AR lenses that make users a part of the advert. Coca Cola, Pepsi and Taco Bell are just a select few of the brands now utilizing the tech on Snapchat. Consumers no longer scroll past these adverts, but become a part of them with AR lenses.
|+As incentive to send content regularly, emoji icons will appear next to the names of contacts that the user frequently interacts with.|
|Appears next to the user's number 1 Best Friend when they are also their number 1 Best Friend for two months in a row.|
|(Best Friend Forever) Appears next to the user's number 1 Best Friend when they are also their number 1 Best Friend for two weeks in a row.|
|Appears next to the user's number 1 Best Friend when they are also their number 1 Best Friend.|
|Appears next to one of the user's Best Friends.|
|Appears next to someone when the user's number 1 Best Friend is also their number 1 Best Friend.|
|Appears next to someone whom the user shares a best friend with.|
|Appears next to the number of days that the user and a friend have Snapped each other. If the user and their friend do not both send a Snap within 24 hours, they will lose their Snapstreak.|
|✨||Group Chat||Appears next to all of the user's group chats.|
|Appears next to someone's name if the user's Snapstreak is going to end soon.|
|Appears next to someone when it is their birthday.|
In June 2014, the story feature was expanded to incorporate "Our Stories," which was then changed to "Live Stories" about a year later. The feature allows users on-location at specific events (such as or sporting events) to contribute snaps to a curated story advertised to all users, showcasing a single event from multiple perspectives and viewpoints. These curated snaps provided by the app's contributors and selected for the "Live" section could also be more localized, but Snapchat eventually scaled back the more personal imaging streams in order to emphasize public events.
An "Official Stories" designation was added in November 2015 to denote the public stories of notable figures and celebrities, similar to Twitter's "Verified account" program.
In January 2015, Snapchat introduced "Discover" an area containing channels of ad-supported short-form content from major publishers, including BuzzFeed, CNN, ESPN, Mashable, People, Vice Media and Snapchat itself among others. To address data usage concerns related to these functions, a "Travel Mode" option was added in August 2015. When activated, the feature prevents the automatic downloading of snaps until they are explicitly requested by the user.
In October 2016, the app was updated to replace its auto-advance functionality, which automatically moved users from one story to the next, with a "Story Playlist" feature, letting users select thumbnails of users in the list to play only selected stories.
In June 2017, "Snap Map" was introduced, which allows users to optionally share their location with friends. A map display, accessible from the viewfinder, can be used to locate stories based on location data, supporting the use of Bitmoji as place markers. Entering a "Ghost Mode" hides the user from the map. The function is based on the app Zenly, which was acquired by Snap Inc. prior to its launch. The map data is supplied from OpenStreetMap and Mapbox, while satellite imagery comes from DigitalGlobe.
Rather than a traditional online notification, a blue pulsing "here" button is displayed within the sender's chat window if the recipient is currently viewing their own chat window. When this button is held down, a video chat function is immediately launched. By default, messages disappear after they are read, and a notification is sent to the recipient only when they start to type. Users can also use messages to reply to snaps that are part of a story. The video chat feature uses technology from AddLive—a real-time communications provider that Snapchat acquired prior to the feature's launch. In regards to the "Here" indicator, Spiegel explained that "the accepted notion of an online indicator that every chat service has is really a negative indicator. It means 'my friend is available and doesn't want to talk to you,' versus this idea in Snapchat where 'my friend is here and is giving you their full attention.'" Spiegel further claimed that the Here video function prevents the awkwardness that can arise from apps that use typing indicators because, with text communication, conversations lose their fluidity as each user tries to avoid typing at the same time.
On March 29, 2016, Snapchat launched a major revision of the messaging functionality known as "Chat 2.0," adding stickers, easier access to audio and video conferencing, the ability to leave audio or video "notes," and the ability to share recent camera photos. The implementation of these features are meant to allow users to easily shift between text, audio, and video chat as needed while retaining an equal level of functionality. In June 2018, Snapchat added the feature of deleting a sent message (including; audio, video, and text) before it is read. A feature introduced in August 2018 allows users to send Musical GIFs, TuneMojis.
The study results also suggested that Snapchat's success is not due to its security properties, but because the users found the application to be fun. The researchers found that users seem to be well-aware (79.4% of respondents) that recovering snaps is possible and a majority of users (52.8% of respondents) report that this does not affect their behavior and use of Snapchat. Many users (52.8% of respondents) were found to use an arbitrary timeout length on snaps regardless of the content type or recipient. The remaining respondents were found to adjust their snaps' timeout depending on the content or the recipient. Reasons for adjusting the time length of snaps included the level of trust and relationship with the recipient, the time needed to comprehend the snap, and avoiding .
Snapchat announced its then-upcoming advertising efforts on October 17, 2014, when it acknowledged its need for a revenue stream. The company stated that it wanted to evaluate "if we can deliver an experience that's fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted." Snapchat's first paid advertisement, in the form of a 20-second movie trailer for the horror film Ouija, was shown to users on October 19, 2014.
In January 2015, Snapchat began making a shift from focusing on growth to monetization. The company launched its "Discover" feature, which allowed for paid advertising by presenting short-form content from publishers. Its initial launch partners included CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN and Food Network, among others. In June 2015, Snapchat announced that it would allow advertisers to purchase sponsored geofilters for snaps; an early customer of the offering was McDonald's, who paid for a branded geofilter covering its restaurant locations in the United States. Snapchat made a push to earn ad revenue from its "Live Stories" feature in 2015, after initially launching the feature in 2014. Ad placements can be sold within a live story, or a story can be pitched by a sponsor. Live stories are estimated to reach an average of 20 million viewers in a 24-hour span.
In April 2016, NBC Olympics announced that it had reached a deal with Snapchat to allow stories from the 2016 Summer Olympics to be featured on Snapchat in the United States. The content would include a behind-the-scenes Discover channel curated by BuzzFeed (a company which NBCUniversal has funded), and stories featuring a combination of footage from NBC, athletes, and attendees. NBC sold advertising and entered into revenue sharing agreements. This marked the first time NBC allowed Olympics footage to be featured on third-party property. In May 2016, as part of a campaign to promote , 20th Century Fox paid for the entire array of lenses to be replaced by those based on characters from the X-Men series and films for a single day. In July 2016, it was reported that Snapchat had submitted a patent application for the process of using an object recognition system to deliver sponsored filters based on objects seen in a camera view. Later that year, in September 2016, Snapchat released its first hardware product, called the Spectacles. Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc., called it “a toy” but saw it as an upside to freeing his app from smartphone cameras.
In April 2017, Digiday reported that Snapchat would launch a self-service manager for advertising on the platform. The feature launched the following month, alongside news of a Snapchat Mobile Dashboard for tracking ad campaigns, which rolled out in June to select countries. Also in 2017, Snapchat introduced a "Snap to Store" advertising tool that lets companies using geostickers to track whether users buy their product or visit their store in a 7-day period after seeing the relevant geosticker. On November 13, 2018, Snapchat announced the launch of the Snap Store, where they sell Bitmoji merchandise personalized by avatars from users and their friends. Items for sale include shirts, mugs, shower curtains, and phone cases.
In June 2020, Snapchat announced the creation of its first-ever “shoppable” original show: “The Drop,” focused on “exclusive streetwear collabs” from celebrities and designers. Each episode of “The Drop” will explore the relationship between the designer and celebrity collaborator. Viewers will learn about the item for sale and how it came together as well as what time that day the item will go up for sale. Later that day, at the aforementioned time, the episode will be updated with more content that includes a “swipe up to buy” call to action.
Snapchat allows private premium accounts in which users can monetize their content. This feature is mostly used by models to monetize their adult content. Snapchat is increasingly becoming an integral part of the online porn industry.
Following the agreement, Snapchat updated its privacy page to state that the company "can't guarantee that messages will be deleted within a specific timeframe." Even after Snapchat deletes message data from their servers, that same data may remain in backup for a certain period of time. In a public blog post, the service warned that "If you've ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of , you might know that with the right forensic tools, it's sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted."
In 2020, a woman in North Carolina sued Snapchat (as well as dating app Tinder and the five men named in the attack), claiming features of the app enabled her alleged rapist and his friends to hide evidence of the rape. In particular, the suit alleges that "because of the ways Snapchat is and has been designed, constructed, marketed, and maintained, the were able to send these nonconsensual, pornographic photographs and videos of her with little to no threat of law enforcement verifying that they did so." The woman told the court that parent company Snap Inc. "specifically and purposely designed, constructed, and maintained Snapchat to serve as a secretive and nefarious communications platform that encourages, solicits, and facilitates the creation and dissemination of illicit and non-consensual sexually explicit content...and allowed Snapchat to operate as a safe-haven from law enforcement."