Snapchat's Snaps are Beating Facebook Photos (Corrected!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 10:01 AM

(Snapchat)

Business Insider reports that, as of this month, Snapchat users are sharing more Snaps than Facebook users are sharing photos. 

It's a weird comparison! A "snap" can be a photo or a video. A Facebook photo, obviously, is just a photo. So it's sort of apples-to-oranges. Or apples-to-apples-plus-orange. But still, it's a milestone. Snapchat users now share 400 million Snaps every day.

4Chan founder Chris Poole wrote a short post yesterday about the other big Snapchat story, Facebook's attempt to buy them out. For Poole, the important thing about Snapchat is that it offers users a different way to think about identity online. Poole points out that Facebook and Google, the dominant tech companies, encourage users to stick to fixed online identities that mirror their public, real life ones. Snapchat allows what Poole calls "prismatic identity," an identity that can change depending on the context we're in: 

I hope Snapchat’s dramatic rise represents a shift not only in consumer preferences, but also sends a message to service providers that it’s possible to build great, valuable products that embrace both pseudonymity and ephemerality. (Two things that happen to be in my wheelhouse and deeply ingrained in 4chan’s ethos for more than a decade.)

As a rule, I don't find stories about tech companies acquiring (or failing to acquire) each other very interesting. But Snapchat's success intrigues me because I really do think it suggests mainstream users are finding value in communicating privately and ephemerally.

PS. I just made a TLDR Snapchat account. We're at TLDRTLDR. Send us Snaps! 

UPDATE, 5:06PM. Over at Buzzfeed, John Herrman takes a skeptical look at Facebook to Snapchat comparisons like this one and suggests they might be even more overblown than we realized. You should read the whole thing. Hermann points out that Facebook counts the number of photos users send, while Snapchat counts the number of Snaps that users receive. People often mass-send their Snaps.

Snapchat, for their part, says that 88% of their messages are sent to just one user. But still, it seems pretty clear that they've chosen to present their numbers in the way that's the most flattering to them as a company. Herrman says that the best way to really evaluate how popular Snapchat's grown is to look at the number for their monthly active users, which the company so far hasn't reported.

So, the takeaway, I suppose, is that Snapchat is growing, probably at a slower rate than they would like you to think. They're important, and they're worth paying attention to, and I still think their success Means Something Culturally. But the headline on this piece (which I wrote) is a bad one. It almost certainly exaggerates Snapchat's success. Sorry, all.

 



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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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