There is pretty much no end to startup companies wanting to change the world by being the next big social network, or the next big social-enabled product. Regardless of what the ambition is, there’s no doubt that startup culture is still alive and well. More than ever, developers have all of the tools at their disposal necessary to create something great, and this kind of pervasiveness around development tools has, in part, triggered a kind of renaissance where nearly anyone can start the next big company from their basement in much the same way that the major tech companies of today, such as Google, were started.
A great example of this is a company and service called Snapchat. Snapchat is a sort of messaging app that lets you capture a single moment–whether it’s a picture or video–to be shared with a friend. Once the person on the other end views the media (called a “snap” in this context), it is automatically deleted from the Snapchat servers. This quick turnover of content really emphasizes the immediacy of “moments” in Snapchat, and is a refreshing twist on well-established services like Instagram.
More recently a feature was added to Snapchat called “Stories”, which are collections of Snaps that last 24 hours each, creating a kind of living timeline of someone’s life. It’s a novel innovation that does a good job of conveying a sense of “happening right now”.
Much like a lot of other famous companies, Snapchat was started by a small group of students from Stanford, starting off as some unknown messaging service whose future was uncertain. Today, Snapchat is estimated to serve millions upon millions of people every day, and due to its popularity the company was even approached by Facebook to be acquired for the amount of $3 billion. Snapchat, however, declined the offer. Google offered them a better deal at $4 billion, but Snapchat still didn’t budge. It remains to be seen as to how they’ll make money in the future, but as of now they’re off to a great start with the “gather userbase” part of the equation solving itself quite nicely.
The genius of the company comes in its simplicity. Even though it’s picking up steam rather quickly, there’s not a whole lot of work that needs to be done in order to scale according to traffic–pictures and video come and go extremely quickly, leading to much smaller storage requirements on the server.
As for whether Snapchat will be in it for the long run, that remains to be seen. It’s going to compete a little with services like Instagram, where people are already sharing their best photos and pictures for everyone to see. Snapchat, though, has the edge of working with content from a “fresh” perspective, where nearly all content you look at is brand new.
Currently they don’t have a plan for making a profit from its users, so a lot of its day to day operations are funded either out of pocket by the creators or from investors. At some point they’ll have to find a way to increase profits, but until then the service is quite clutter-free and no-nonsense, not to mention unique in its concept.