Tag Archive: snapchat


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Twitter’s entire premise is based on publicness. “Join the conversation in the global town square!” the company likes to say.

But, over the past year, Twitter has come around to seeing the value of being more discreet.

The company plans to significantly update its direct-messaging product in the near future, according to multiple sources, bringing the long-buried feature to the forefront for the first time in years.

Part of the new reemphasis on direct messaging is already here. For weeks, Twitter has been internally testing a setting that allows users to send and receive direct messages from others without needing to mutually follow one another. And, earlier this week, the company began to roll it out to the public in a limited capacity.

But Twitter’s new vision for direct messages will go further. It has kicked around the idea of launching a standalone direct-messaging application separate from the Twitter app, according to three people familiar with the matter. It is unclear, however, what form the final revamp of direct messages will take.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment when asked about future messaging plans.

Twitter’s move comes as a defensive riposte to personal-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk, all of which have drastically increased in popularity over the past two years. KakaoTalk, in particular, was mentioned as a threat in Twitter’s S-1 IPO documentation, filed earlier this month. To cope with such an increase in attention, other social networks, like Facebook and Path, have also made significant updates to their messaging capabilities.

Twitter paid specific attention to Snapchat, the massively popular ephemeral-messaging service, during its rapid ascent to popular use. Twitter even ran one of its own surveys, according to sources familiar with the matter, finding that people are indeed using Snapchat to engage more with others. And one of Twitter’s updates to Android tablet apps earlier this month borrows heavily from Snapchat’s in-message illustration features.

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Earlier in the year, Twitter also met with employees from MessageMe, another popular mobile-messaging application, according to sources.

Moving private messaging up the food chain hasn’t always been in the company’s plans. At one point in Twitter’s history, employees discussed possibly killing direct messaging off altogether, according to multiple sources, making Twitter a truly public service once and for all. It is said that Jack Dorsey was one of the biggest proponents of the “all-public” version of Twitter.

Instead, Twitter went in a considerably less drastic direction. Under the direction of Dorsey and then product VP Satya Patel, the company launched a complete redesign of its desktop and mobile products in December of 2011, plucking the direct-messaging menu from the home screen and burying it under a separate, less visible menu. Eventually, the idea was that the product could have possibly been phased out.

Besides dealing with a public that wants personal-messaging services, Twitter also must attempt to solve its serious growth problem, one that seems to have alienated the service from becoming truly mainstream. The company hopes that an upcoming redesign will put an end to its retention issues and ultimately boost Twitter’s overall user ranks.

It is likely that we will see both updates before the year’s end, perhaps in time for the company’s much-anticipated initial public offering next month.

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According to sources close to the situation, Snapchat could announce its latest massive funding later this week.

Sources said the round being raised – up to $200 million – will come in part from China’s Internet giant Tencent and value the self-destructing mobile messaging startup from $3.6 billion to $4 billion. But, said sources, there are likely to be other new investors in the round.

AllThingsD broke the news of the possible funding last week.

The new funding comes only a few months after closing a Series B round of $60 million that valued Snapchat at $800 million.

While such a deal could still be delayed or even fall apart, sources said it was on track to be announced as early as this Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Snapchat did not as yet return an email and text requesting comment.

The move by the Los Angeles-based Snapchat is the second giant funding of late of a small Internet startup with little to no revenue.

Social scrapbooking company Pinterest announced earlier this week that it just raised $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation.

But investors are piling on, hoping to grab an early hold on the next Twitter or Facebook.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has grown wildly popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last for only a matter of seconds.

Snapchat’s last round was led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners and SV Angel. Previous investors Benchmark Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated. With that round, the company had raised around $75 million in total.

At the time of the June funding, in an interview with AllThingsD, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel noted: “We’re excited about in-app transactions because of what we’ve seen in the Asian markets.”

He has called out Tencent specifically in a series of interviews as being an innovative player there.

The interest in investing is because the mobile Snapchat app has proved so popular and has become global. It has also become potentially worrisome to established social players – so much so that sources said when Spiegel continually rebuffed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition offers, Zuckerberg cloned the app outright with a service called Poke. Zuckerberg’s offering famously flopped, while Snapchat continues to grow.

Most recently, Snapchat has begun to experiment with features outside of its core ephemeral messaging service. The company launched its Stories product last month, essentially a long-form play on Facebook’s status update in the form of a picture or video. And recently, Spiegel has grown more keen on the idea of monetization, experimenting with bands and listening to music inside the app.

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Traditionally photography is about preserving a moment in time; you take a picture literally because it’ll last longer. The entire art is built around a quest for permanence, and archival desires. But with Snapchat, you’re casting off those things you photograph almost as soon as you take the picture – in many cases it’s less permanent than just continuing to look at something. For an avid hobbyist photographer, it’s somewhat counterintuitive, but also very liberating.

Part of the appeal of Snapchat seems to be that people don’t have to be too concerned about how they take a photo; the communication is more important here, and since no one’s framing any of your pictures, there’s no reason to sweat composition, lighting or anything else. But I do find myself thinking about those things, resulting in an entirely different kind of art compared to traditional, camera-based photography.

Taking photos for Snapchat is, in many ways, much more about audience than traditional photography is. You’re creating a moment for another person specifically in most cases, and you’ve got constraints including your immediate environs, a limited smartphone camera and a camera interface that’s simple to the point of being like a blunt instrument, even compared to the stock iPhone camera app. Best of all, you’re creating for momentary consumption; the photo has to convey what you need it to in a very brief window of time.

But the best part is the absence of pretense around taking these photos. The snaps aren’t trying to be something they’re not; they’re pictures, and all the fun and the art is uncomplicated by questions of legacy, or of long-lasting quality and memorability. You’re making something without having to worry about how making that thing will potentially cast you in the eyes of history. Not that most people are consciously thinking about what kind of museums their work will appear in later, or how it will be judged by future generations, but the act of capturing, writing down or recording something is deeply entangled with those concerns, conscious or not.

Being free of that allows for more genuine enjoyment – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes close to describing how that feels in his novel Galapagos when he talks about the narrator writing the book you’re reading with this finger, in the air: In other words, taking a very long view reveals that both Snapchat and traditional photographic tools are equally ephemeral, as both are of no consequence on a cosmic scale. But having that temporariness brought home and made understandable makes all the difference.

We’re strongly conditioned to believe that if you’re going to make something, it’s worth making something that will last. But Snapchat is a good reminder that sometimes, it’s just fine to make something fleeting, too.

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