Snapchat Inc. has 150 million people using the service each day, according to a report from Bloomberg last week. That figure makes the four-year-old messaging app more popular than the revolutionary 140-character social media outlet Twitter Inc. (TWTR) in terms of daily active users.
Snapchat has been growing rapidly, primarily due to its popularity among young people. According to Bloomberg, people “who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the numbers” stated that the app had 110 million daily users in December. Twitter, on the contrary, has less than 140 million users interacting with the service daily, according to analysts’ estimates surveyed by Bloomberg.
(Also read: “Inside Snapchat: The Best Upcoming Tech IPO?”)
Twitter was once the largest social network after Facebook (FB), but has since been surpassed by Facebook’s other apps, including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. The social media company has 310 million monthly active users, per its most recent earnings report. Unfortunately, Twitter does not disclose how many of those people check in daily.
Furthermore, Snapchat's users watch 10 billion videos per day, according to a report from Bloomberg back in April. That is 2 billion more than the most recent numbers reported by Facebook, which were made public back in November.
Since Snapchat is steadily becoming one of the most popular social media platforms in the word, let’s examine what Snapchat provides its users and why it is gaining in popularity.
What Is Snapchat?
Snapchat is an image messaging and multimedia mobile app created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown when they were students at Stanford University. The app is primarily used for creating multimedia messages referred to as “snaps.” These snaps can consist of a photo or a short video, and can be edited to include filters and effects, text captions, and drawings.
Snaps can be directed privately to selected contacts, or to a semi-public “Story” – a collection of snaps viewed in chronological order with each segment being accessible for 24 hours. The story feature also includes “Live Stories” and “Official Stories.”
The Live Stories feature allows users at specific events to contribute snaps to a curated story advertised to all users. As a result, multiple contributors could be presenting the same event from varying viewpoints. These public Stories can also be more personal nature, depicting videos or photos of a user’s daily activities. Official Stories are snaps from notable public figures and celebrities, similar to Twitter's “Verified account.”
There are also private message photo snaps, which can be viewed for a user-specified length of time (1 to 10 seconds) before they become inaccessible. Users receiving these private snaps can take a screenshot of the photo if they desire, but the user sending the snap will receive a notification indicating that a screenshot occurred.
When using Snapchat to message your friends, there is a blue pulsing "Here" button displayed within the sender's chat window if the receiving user is currently viewing their own chat window, rather than a traditional online notification. If the button is held down, a video chat function is immediately launched. By default, messages disappear after they are read and a notification is only sent to the recipient when they start to type. Users can also use messages to reply to snaps that are part of a story.
What Makes Snapchat so Popular?
The freedoms of expression Snapchat encourages, having moments that are more personal with friends, despite not being physically with them, and the ephemerality nature of its core are three key reasons for the social media app’s popularity. Now, that does not mean individuals using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms do not achieve these three critical aspects of social media experiences – Snapchat simply is doing this better.
Snapchat is widely popular with millennials and the generation following them due to their love for having experiences. Combine that with 10-second videos, appealing to the short attention span humanity has developed and that is a recipe for success. There is only so much a Facebook status or a 140 character hot take on Twitter can do to capture a moment. Even an altered and filtered Instagram photo allows friends and followers to experience a moment more so than written words.
Snapchat has managed to take all the positive aspects of the big-name social media platforms and reduce them into one, single application – photos, videos, emojis, doodles, and texts all accessible without being permanently stuck in the webs of the Internet. Interactions are not “transactional” like a text message or impersonal as a status, but rather more “conversational” and place you in the moment seconds after it occurred.
Snapchat has also figured out a way to monetize ephemerality in an easy, digestible way, truly capitalizing on the fast-pace, instantaneous digital landscape of Internet interactions. The social media app charges roughly $750 thousand a day for an ad – they know how to generate capital.
Due to Snapchat catering primarily to the younger generations of society, it may never completely overthrow Facebook as the predominant social media platform of the world – Facebook has now become a place where all individuals, whether old or young, come to digitally socialize.
However, the mechanisms of Snapchat allow it to continually grow and adapt to the ever-changing digital and social landscape humanity continues to crave out for itself. The app does not have the limitations Twitter has faced – Snapchat is simply more multi-faceted and offers more than Twitter. Snapchat will only continue to grow in popularity and will soon enough be a household name just like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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