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Snapchat: What Is It?

Originally created to help you sext safely, the social network becomes much more — ignore it at the peril of your own relevancy

The News translator Nicole Furia checks out a Snapchat sent by photographer Sandra Blow, photo: The News/Caitlin Donohue
By Caitlin Donohue Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
2 years ago


To be considered reasonably modern in 2016, one needs a passing familiarity with Snapchat.

A long time ago, the average person did not have to maintain a profile on more than one social media site. Back in that ancient era, it was permissible to have AOL Instant Messenger and be satisfied.

Later on, Myspace became the only thing a large quantity of people wanted to focus on.

Those were the days. But everyone has Facebook now, and depending on your age and profession, various additional social media sites may play a crucial role in your social clan or industry’s communication.

As a writer, you don’t really exist if you’re not on Twitter, for example. If you are under the age of 24, not having Snapchat leaves you a little behind. In each case, you are still allowed to exist, but you’re going to be considered a little quaint and you’ll probably miss parties.

We asked our Snapchat experts to send us a favorite Snap they've sent. This was producer Tomás Davo's pick. We didn't ask for further clarification.

We asked our Snapchat experts to send us a favorite Snap they’ve sent. This was producer Tomás Davo’s pick. We didn’t ask for further clarification.

Snapchat started in 2011 when Stanford fraternity brother Reggie Brown complained to his frat brethren Evan Spiegel about how he wished a photo he had sent to a girl would disappear. Spiegel, along with Bobby Murphy, launched an app months later that would do just that. At first, it was called Picaboo.

In the fall of 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered to buy the app from Spiegel and Murphy. The pair refused. Their hubris had it’s rewards. Snapchat is currently valued somewhere between $10-20 billion.

Are you still wondering what the hell it is?

On Snapchat, you record video and photos, customize the footage with a wide array of visual effects and select which friends to send the “Snap” to. Its main difference, compared to previously available apps, is that this content has a built-in expiration date — after a few seconds, that shot of your cat sleeping in a weird position is gone forever from your followers’ lives (unless they take a screenshot, in which case you will be notified.)

You can also string Snaps together and post on your profile as a “Story.” Stories last for 24 hours and anyone visiting your page can see them.

Snapchat is in an ongoing battle to monetize its content, which it is currently waging with its “Discover” page, where clients like the White House and the NFL post content they hope will reach Snapchat’s prolific young users.

I can’t tell you what the figures are for Mexico, but let it suffice to say that Snapchat’s Facebook page boasts six million fans in the country. In January, daily video views worldwide reached seven billion. It’s been estimated that 36 percent of U.S. residents between 18 and 29 years old have the app.

I suggest that even if you’re not considering your own future in Snaps, that you might get a little acquainted just so you don’t look like a dinosaur in a moment where you’d prefer to be taken seriously as a citizen of the internet.

What’s the deal with the app: “I like [Snapchat] because I can be a lot more careless than I can on other social media networks that have gotten either much more personal or much more professional,” record label head Tomás Davó a.k.a. DJ Fausto Bahia told The News.

Photographer Sandra Blow agreed with Davó that it can be a break from other networks that she uses to promote her work. “[Snapchat is] the coolest social network. Instagram you have to be selective with your images, and if you post more than one it’s annoying.”

And since there’s not the same worry as overloading your followers with content, Blow said the app promotes intimacy among users. “You can see your friends’ lives, their houses, the cool things they see in the street, what they eat.”

I like [Snapchat] because I can be a lot more careless than I can on other social media networks that have gotten either much more personal or much more professional.”

— Tomás Davó, DJ and music producer

How the pros use it: You’ll have to digest that there is a different language on Snapchat, so don’t try to post the same things on the app that you would on Facebook or Twitter. “Connect with your inner teenager,” said Davó.

Blow advises new users not to go overboard with the many filters — which are often graphics you can overlay on the footage you record — that are available on Snapchat. Everyone with the app has access to these features, so you’re not really adding any value to your content by throwing them on carelessly. Plus, “it’s annoying,” she said.

She also councils that you should keep the division between private and public (Story) content strong. No one wants a bunch of mundane shots in their private inbox.

Confused? Us too …

“I know it’s weird, but you’ll get it,” said Blow.


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