The photo-sharing app Snapchat is growing rapidly. You may have heard about it.
Founded in September 2011 by Stanford University students, Snapchat allows you to send "Snaps," quick photos, to others that are only viewable for a maximum of 10 seconds. Then they disappear completely - at least that's how the app is supposed to work.
Called the "fastest rising startup" by TechCrunch, Snapchat has a rabid following among teenagers and its popularity is exploding on college campuses as well - not unlike Facebook's rise at educational institutions less than a decade ago. Users have said that the fact photos disappear quickly, they can take it less seriously, worry about how they look less, and simply have fun.
Bloomberg Businessweek wrote a feature today about the app called "Snapchat and the Erasable Future of Social Media." But here's the problem. Social media isn't erasable. By nature, it's social, it's being shared, and you can't control what the other side will do with it. Even if you delete it later, it could be captured before deletion, or even if it disappears with something like Snapchat, there are ways it can be saved.
No Such Thing As Temporary Today
Those 1-to-10-second-photos that disappear - what the app is based on - are they really temporary?
The app supposedly has a detector built in so that when someone tries to take a screenshot, the other person is notified. But it doesn't always work.
In personal experiments using Snapchat with my co-workers, I saw that the screenshot notifier worked sometimes and it didn't worked other times. I'm not sure if it was the versions of our phones or what.
Furthermore, a "hack" is making the rounds that allows users to take a screenshot without the other person finding out. It's actually incredibly simple. You take a screenshot of the photo, then double-tap the home button on your phone while the photo is still showing. The other person won't know about your screenshot.
There are YouTube videos outlining how to screenshot Snapchats without the other person seeing.
Even if people don't technically hack, like the ways outlined above, they could take a another device - a separate camera - hover over the screen, and snap a photo to save it.
Bottom line: There's no such thing as temporary on the Internet or on phones. When you send something, to anyone, you should consider it permanent. And for that reason, you should be careful what you send. Be smart. Don't share something, even privately, that you wouldn't want the world to see.
You might say you trust the person on the other side of the Snapchat. That may be true. But you just never know. Will your relationship always be great? Is there even a small chance that one day you won't be close, and they'll have preserved the Snapchat without your knowing?
Always be cautious about what you share.