Have you heard of Snapchat? Do you use Snapchat?
Well, whether you do or don’t, “the kids” sure are using Snapchat these days.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the app lets users send disappearing photos and videos — complete with added text and drawings — to their friends. As a sender, you can control how long your friends can view the message … and then it’s gone forever (or so they say).
In case you’ve missed the rise of this popular messaging app, here are five of the top things you need to know:
1. Snapchat takes the bronze. Just this week, comScore numbers showed that SnapChat is the third most popular social app among millennials, identified as folks between the ages of 18 and 34. The app’s penetration rate is just under 33%, behind only Instagram at 43% and Facebook (FB) at almost 76% (pretty solid, Zuck). And it’s ahead of other big dogs in the app space, including Twitter (TWTR) and Vine, Yahoo’s (YHOO) Tumblr and Google’s (GOOG) social media offering Google+.
2. Snapchat could be worth $10 billion. Speaking of Yahoo, Chinese giant Alibaba — which Yahoo made a hefty and successful investment in — was supposedly in talks with Snapchat for an investment of its own. That investment would have valued the photo messaging app at a whopping $10 billion. (Of course, the talks have ended, according to Bloomberg.)
3. Facebook tried to buy it … and clone it. In hindsight, then, it’s almost laughable that Facebook tat one point tried to buy Snapchat for just $3 billion — of course, at the time, $3 billion seemed laughably high. Of course, Snapchat’s popularity wasn’t at the same level back when Facebook first floated its offer, as TechCrunch noted in some recent coverage:
“Snapchat’s overall audience penetration among smartphone users was just 12.1% back in November 2013, when reports of the Facebook deal began to circulate. That made the company’s decision to decline the multi-billion dollar acquisition appear risky and maybe even rash — especially since Facebook and MySpace only began to see their user growth really accelerate once they hit 15%-20% penetration — something which Snapchat had not yet achieved.”
Still, the fact that Facebook recognized — and envied — the success and potential of Snapchat was crystal-clear by its attempts at cloning the app. The first wannabe Snapchat came out in December 2012, with an app called Poke that … well, was basically just like Snapchat. Not long after, Zuck & Co. released another called Slingshot, which also was an app for sending disappearing photos and videos — the only catch that users had to send a photo before they could see one.
Not that it mattered, though. Both apps were failures.
There still might be hope for a Snapchat-clone to gain some traction. Bloomberg reports that, with its latest imitation attempt, Facebook actually might be on to something:
“The Instagram team took another run at it on July 29 with the introduction of Bolt. The standalone app, which isn’t available yet in the U.S., was launched in just three countries — New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. Bolt is actually doing quite well in those places, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Its average ranking currently exceeds Snapchat’s. The test is limited to a few countries over the course of two weeks, but the data suggest Facebook’s relentlessness could finally start to have an impact.”
Maybe the third time’s the charm.
4. Microsoft also tried to clone SnapChat. Microsoft (MSFT) also has its eye on Snapchat, as the Microsoft Research division recently launched an app called WindUp that also looked just like the original disappearing photo app. Of course, Microsoft waved off claims that it was trying to copy Snapchat, instead claiming it was just trying to … uh … learn stuff? A blog post from the company read:
“Given erroneous press reports about our research, as the lead for a Microsoft Research project called WindUp, I want to clarify our project’s objectives. We released WindUp into theWindows Phone Store last week as part of our ongoing research. Our goal is to learn how people create, share and converse about content online.
WindUp is a mobile application for research purposes only …”
5. Snapchat might just actually make some money. Forget the clones for a second, though — even the largest user base is useless from a business perspective if you can’t use it to make some cold hard cash … right? Well, don’t worry. Snapchat isn’t sitting still on this front either.
First came the launch of the “Our Story” feature, with allows users to post a public story that disappears after 24 hours — the first venture between mere friend-to-friend messaging. Many speculated that feature could be the path into the advertising world for Snapchat and, as of some news last night, they just might be right.
News broke that Snapchat has apparently held talks with advertisers and media companies about a service called Snapchat Discovery that would show content and ads to Snapchat users, according to The Wall Street Journal.
If that’s the case, the bronze medal we mentioned earlier matters even more, while the tech world’s jealousy makes even more sense.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.