Unlike Many Startups And Big Tech Companies, Snapchat Is Powered By Google, Not Amazon

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Evan Spiegel Snapchat Portrait Illustration

Mike Nudelman/Business Insider

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.

For a long time, Amazon's cloud platform for developers — known as Amazon Web Services (AWS) — has been the first place developers look when making an app or service that needs to scale up to millions of users.

It's got one of the most impressive client lists in the tech industry: Pinterest, Netflix, Reddit, Spotify, and Airbnb are just a few of the companies that run their code at Amazon's data centers.

Snapchat, one of the hottest startups today, took different route when it built the technology that allows it to send its users over 400 million "snaps," or picture and video messages, per day.

Rather than building its own server infrastructure or using Amazon's popular service, Snapchat built its app on top of Google App Engine, a similar service from Google.

Back in May of last year, Snapchat CTO Bobby Murphy spoke to GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham about the company's use of Google's cloud platform.

At the time, Murphy said that he believed "Google is scaling out and willing to invest in this platform," and that "when it comes to scale, Google could offer more than AWS."

It's easy to see why a brand new startup would build its app around Google's platform. Like many services that Google offers, like Gmail and Google Drive, the company's cloud offering has a free tier that's good enough for many users. It then charges a reasonable rate for those who need more.

While it doesn't offer the raw customization and control available on Amazon's cloud, it makes up for that by handling things like database administration and balancing intense traffic between servers automatically — a plus for a startup with a lean staff.

With that said, Snapchat isn't a small startup anymore. It's has a multi-billion valuation and millions of users. Apparently, Google's platform is still good enough for their purposes: Snapchat VP of Communications Mary Ritti confirmed in an email to Business Insider that the company is still using the service. Also notable: despite rapid growth, the app hasn't experienced any major outages. 

The fact that Snapchat is already built on Google's servers also throws an interesting wrinkle into the story of its valuation and the companies bidding for it. Facebook and Google both made bids of billions of dollars in their attempts to buy the company, but unlike Facebook, Snapchat has been connected to Google from the beginning.

Since Google wouldn't have had to spend the time and money to port the app away from its own servers, it's fun to wonder how long it would have taken the company to turn Snapchat into something like Poke, Facebook's massive flop of a Snapchat clone, but with accounts tied to Google+.



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