April 8, 2013
Led by the popular photo-sharing app Snapchat, a number of startups are challenging the belief that everything one posts online is destined to be online for eternity. Even social networking giant Facebook recently released a Snapchat-like feature called Poke, which enables users to send notes, pictures and videos to their friends that dissappear after an allotted amount of time.
“While technology allowing us to send and receive expiring messages is not new, these apps offer a very simple way to exercise control over your data in a world where your so-called permanent record is now documented across the Web,” writes MIT Technology Review. “If their appeal continues to climb, such ephemeral media could soon become more far-reaching, and will perhaps even extend to some of the social networks that now mine our every move in an effort to serve up targeted online ads.”
Snapchat leads this charge, allowing users to share images and videos with friends for up to 10 seconds. “Snapchat recipients must keep a finger on the smartphone’s screen while viewing a picture, which makes it tricky, but not impossible, to take a screenshot (when this happens, the person who sent the image is notified),” notes the article. “In December, users were sharing 50 million snaps per day; this has since risen to 100 million.”
Snapchat is the seventh-most-popular free app for iPhones and 20th most-popular free app for Android devices.
According to Jeremy Liew, a partner at Snapchat investor Lightspeed Venture, the popularity of these types of fleeting messaging apps indicate a growing discomfort with sharing lives in full on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Some critics decry Snapchat as a tool for sexting, but Liew says people mostly send snaps during the day, making it unlikely that much racy content is being shared,” writes Technology Review.
“People were already feeling like they wanted to have an avenue that was less of a broadcast media model, where they could be a little bit more intimate, more raw and authentic,” said Liew.
In addition to Snapchat, there’s disappearing-message app Wickr and Gryphn, an Android app that replaces SMS texting and encrypts and decrypts outgoing and incoming messages, respectively. “The app doesn’t allow users to take screen shots, and encryption can prevent a message recipient from saving or forwarding a message or set a picture message to disappear shortly after being viewed,” explains the article.
“I do believe ephemeral data’s the future. Every single messaging, social, communications app in the future will have ephemeral capabilities,” said Wickr cofounder Nico Sell. “Now that we’ve done it, it’s really obvious.”