Photo: Evan Spiegel
Video-messaging app Snapchat is now more popular than ever, despite news that its self-destructing videos can be saved and the release of a rival version by Facebook.Facebook Poke, released before Christmas, was the social-network’s attempt to jump on the popularity of the apps that delete their messages automatically, which have also been linked to young people ‘sexting’ inappropriate material.
Analysts had thought that the rival app, along with news that easily available tools allowed iPhone users to save Snapchat videos, would dent the rise of the app. But Facebook’s Poke has rapidly fallen down app popularity charts, despite a concerted PR effort by the social network, which revealed that founder Mark Zuckerberg had written code for the app himself and that it has been created in just weeks. Snapchat, however, has retained its position in the upper reaches of both Amazon and iOS’s app category charts.
Snapchat users can specify the lifespan of their picture and video messages, but once opened none can last longer than 10 seconds within the app.
Now the service is being hailed as one of the top apps for 2013, in large part because it gained widespread popularity among teenagers with smartphones before gaining media attention.
Both Facebook and Snapchat have warned that although their messages delete automatically, users should consider that they can be saved if users make specific efforts. Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel told Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos “there will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products – but that spoils the fun!”.
Facebook said that: “While Pokes disappear after they are read, there are still ways that people can potentially save them… because of this, people should think about what they are sending, and share responsibly.”
A six-month Channel 4 and NSPCC investigation into sexting spoke to children between the ages of 13 and 16 last year.
“I get asked for naked pictures … at least two or three times a week,” one 15 year old girl said. A boy the same age said: “You would have seen a girl’s breasts before you’ve seen their face.”
Professor Andy Phippen from Plymouth University, who carried out the research for the NSPCC, said, “This is mainstream, this is normal, this is almost mundane for some of the people we spoke to.”
Jon Brown from the NSPCC said “Good quality sex education is absolutely critical. It needs to start actually in primary school. It needs to be age-appropriate if we are able to help them navigate their way through these pressures.”
Snapchat claims, however, that it is largely used for sending pictures that are not permanently wanted by its users, rather than for inappropriate pictures and videos.