A Grand Theory of Snapchat, as Constructed by Snapchat
In the tech industry, conversations about ephemeral messaging service Snapchat often focus on a few things.
- Snapchat turned down a $3 billion dollar offer from Facebook.
- The service was hacked. Badly.
- CEO Evan Spiegel’s frat boy persona has rubbed some people the wrong way.
- It’s all about teen sexting.
But the reality is, Snapchat is a wildly popular app, with more than 400 million messages received every day. Clearly, it has significant appeal.
Every so often there are glimpses of method behind the Snapchat madness. At our Dive Into Mobile conference last year, for example, Spiegel explained that when people live their lives online, the concept of sharing changes. That is: photos shared in the moment and given a short lifespan are a more authentic form of self-expression than those curated and selectively archived on social media.
Here’s another glimpse: Spiegel recently published notes for a speech he gave yesterday, in which he describes the emergence of Snapchat.
Spiegel’s big point: Snapchat is a viable means of communication.
He’s said that before, but he also adds a few interesting observations worth noting on their own:
The selfie makes sense as the fundamental unit of communication on Snapchat because it marks the transition between digital media as self-expression and digital media as communication.
Spiegel explains this as communicating through media, rather than around media, as people would in a caption or comment thread.
Snapchat sets expectations around conversation that mirror the expectations we have when we’re talking in-person.
But if Snapchat is a form of communication, it often isn’t very deep or informative. It’s more about here’s where I am, here’s how I feel, or hey, I’m bored. Spiegel has an explanation for that too.
Snapchat focuses on the experience of conversation — not the transfer of information.
The full speech itself is a bit loopy, but here’s the text as posted by Spiegel: