I have never seen an app so overrated as Snapchat. I have no idea why it is valued at $24 billion. My only guess is that there is either too much extra money floating around or that speculation has become dangerously optimistic.
The key selling point to Snapchat is its disappearing messages and photos. It’s meant to keep your communications secret. But Snapchat is to secrecy as Twitter is to informative discussion. In principle, both are possible. In practice, both fail at their goals.
Because it supposedly leaves no evidence, Snapchat is the first choice for those engaged in bad behavior, like having an affair. Why Snapchat and not Facebook? Let’s look at a few statistics. 41% of people caught having affairs say that they were caught because of what they posted on Facebook, and 66% of divorce lawyers claimed they used evidence from Facebook to advance their cases. The fear of getting caught is the main reason people give for not having affairs. 75% of men and 60% of women said that they would have an affair if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. You might wonder why these people simply don’t ratchet up their Facebook privacy settings. Well, maybe they don’t know how to. You can’t rule out ignorance when it comes to cyber security. However, even if they do lock down their Facebook page to just friends, it doesn’t stop the dedicated investigator from using a fake profile to get befriended by the targeted individual. So wouldn’t it be better just to use an app that includes the service of automatically making messages disappear? It is no wonder, then, that those involved in bad behavior, especially behavior that they expect to engage in over an extended period of time, choose Snapchat to stay safe from prying eyes. In fact, a site known as “The Affair Handbook (Learn how to cheat without getting caught!)” points out some “clever ways” you can use Snapchat with “your affair partner”. It’s at the point where simply seeing Snapchat on your partner’s smartphone should make you suspicious. Parents should also be concerned about their children in the same way.
This being the case, users of the app need to be assured that it does what it says it will do; keep their communications secret. There must be no way for disappearing messages to suddenly reappear. Well, in most cases and for most people, Snapchat will do the job. However, for those dedicated to saving chats and photos, there are ways to circumvent the disappearing message conundrum. For example, the person who receives your secret chat could take a screenshot of your photo or message. This is handy if, for example, you receive a photo of something you’d like to save, like a recipe or bus schedule. However, if the receiver does choose to take a screenshot of what was sent them, the sender will be notified that this action has taken place. It’s too late to take the photo back, but the sender would probably be wary of sending any compromising photos in the future.
But there are other, more devious, ways to save chats and messages that do not inform the sender of what is really happening. At the most basic level, the person could just take a regular photo of the phone screen. It’s a bit primitive and probably not so easy to do, but it is effective. A phone, tablet, or camera could be used to take a continuous video of the Snapchat screen during a session and then this video could be saved thereafter.
There are apps and workarounds that do much of the same thing but within the phone itself. Many of these apps have been sued by Snapchat and taken off Google Play and Apple app stores. Still they continue to pop up. Often, they are the same apps but with different names. Some apps are not specifically designed to capture Snapchat sessions but can be programmed to do just that. There are various screen capture apps that are said to work in capturing Snapchat sessions. However, even though some of these apps continue to be offered on Google Play, they have had to change their modus operandi. In the past, Apowersoft Android Recorder, could be used to save Snapchat sessions. However, the app now notifies Snapchat message senders that it is being used. It is not clear if another screen recorder, AZ Screen Recorder, is still working with Snapchat, but it used to. The point here is that there will always be apps popping up that will compromise Snapchat’s secrecy, at least until they are blocked.
There are also some workarounds which take advantage of the Snapchat app itself. Some, such as the airplane mode hack, still seem to be working. This basically turns off connectivity to the Snapchat session which leaves the photo/message/video screen locked and available to saving. If the app and phone are subsequently turned off and, then, connectivity is restored, the sender will not be notified that their information has been saved. You can see a video on this workaround here.
But you may not even need a workaround. According to some comments on Google Play, sometimes the messages won’t automatically delete.
“They do not delete any texts or pics or videos you send in the chats. Even with the clear conversation nothing gets deleted. My cousin hasn’t saved any texts either. Nothing deletes.”
And at other times the screen freezes on its own, even without using the airplane mode.
“I hate this app the video chat sucks make it a good quality chat I can’t look at the screen for more than 5 seconds without it freezing 6 seconds if I’m lucky but PLZ fix it.”
Snapchat is not without its rivals, some of which are more reliable in keeping your conversations secret. A number of them even offer more features. In other words, Snapchat, as a messaging app, may be now having its temporary moment in the sun. Even its arch rival, Instagram, has reasserted itself. In fact, one assessment shows that Instagram has gained the advantage.
Instagram now offers a delete-after-24-hours feature and, recently, WhatsApp has offered the same. Apparently, that’s been a big hit. “Facebook Live and Instagram Stories have been a runaway hit and the Instagram feature, in particular, has stolen a large chunk of Snapchat’s user base. A similar feature on WhatsApp — which, with a user base of over a billion, dwarves both Instagram and Snapchat in number of daily users — will probably spell doom for the company that came up with the idea in the first place.” According to one report, “there’s been an average decline in Snapchat Stories views of 20 to 30 percent from August until mid-January”. It now looks like Snapchat is using the IPO to shore up the company until some better idea comes along.
It may be that Snapchat can solve its problems or come up with something more innovative. The teenagers I’ve talked to, who use Snapchat as a regular messenger and not simply to hide their behavior, say that the interface is easier to use than the other social apps. They like the disappearing message/photo feature because they don’t have to worry about cleaning up storage space later on. They were not aware of the new disappearing message feature in WhatsApp and Instagram, however.
Snapchat does include a cash transfer feature called, Snapcash, which the company may be banking on. Some have expressed alarm at this cash transfer app being included in a messaging app that is most popular with children and teens. Others claim that the app’s lack of good security practices leaves it vulnerable to hacking, similar to the hack that occurred in 2014.
At the beginning of this post I said that, “I have never seen an app so overrated as Snapchat”, and I’ll stand by that conclusion no matter how much of a darling the stock may be at the beginning of its IPO offering.