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Why Snapchat didn’t give Spectacles to techies (techcrunch.com)
99 points by kitwalker12 on Nov 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments

> That’s why the first memorable photos of Spectacles weren’t shot by Scoble, but by famous fashion photographer Karl Lagerfeld.

How soon we forget: Google Glass actually collaborated with Diane von Furstenberg (a famous fashion designer) and did a launch party at New York Fashion Week.


But Google positioned Glass as a platform for apps, meaning they had to get devs in the loop, while Spectacles are intended for precisely one thing: Snapchat.

This is a very good point. I understand the comparison to Google Glass, but I don't think it's fair. Google openly experiments. Snapchat openly does not.

Normally this wouldn't bother me, but I see so many early 'start ups' that are just experiments, but because we create benchmarks like this - they put on fronts to be more than they are and we get this ecosystem of show-and-tell.

Even though G*Glasses were 'in a fashion' show doesn't mean in any way there were positioned in the proper aspirational way.

Though yes, I agree they had to get devs in the loop 'because apps'.

Snapchat is almost proper consumer marketing company.

Google is a tech company - and they had absolutely no idea how to market and position those glasses to consumers.

> Google is a tech company - and they had absolutely no idea how to market and position those glasses to consumers.


1. G-glass != snapchat spectacles.

2. IMHO google tried to create new accessory - smart glasses, they first wanted to introduce it to developers to create apps for it.

3. Either:

3.1. Google saw that it was not worth it at that time. Google is in business of making money after all and not in business of making selfish and shameless teenagers happy.

3.2. The idea was burned down by privacy concerns. G-glass became recognizable enough that users won't use because public will dismiss them due to privacy reasons and vice versa.

I loathe 'startups' like snapchat (though I understand there's money when such big user base takes pictures/videos of everything around them), but IMHO it's a matter of time when teenagers will grab another new and hip service to scream their daily lives to the world and all 'genius of marketing' will disappear.

If they wold like hotcakes 3.1 would not matter and 3.2 would be rectified enough to assuage the plebes.

Your point 'they tried to create a new accessory': why is a tech company trying to create an 'accessory' that nobody wants, and is completely out of their domain?

Snapchat is very intelligently extending their brand and user experience a little bit. Google was pushing tech.

Things that we wear, are part of our culture, they are about fashion, trends, and to some degree functionality.

Google his a tech company that has absolutely no clue how to do consumer marketing - this is evident in almost everything they do.

When they provide a high degree of utility - then they win - they should stick to that.

Snapchat is doing it exactly right. And there's no reason to believe that in a few years, the Snapchat glasses won't be as powerful and 'app-ish' as the Google glasses.

Google Glass was "almost universally used and appreciated benefits of Android tablets/phones in front of your face". Its potential for mainstream use was limited because most people don't want to socialise with someone with a surreptitious recording device attached to their head.

Snapchat is "mildly addictive product within certain demographics in front of your face". Reasons to assume that it will remain a tiny niche product, probably even within the Snapchat demographic, include most people not wanting to socialise with someone with a surreptitious recording device attached to their head

Here we go again with the undying myth of everyone/most with Glass all secretly recording everyone. Glass is no more surreptitious than Spectacles.

My peer group used Glass for active stuff. We took video of ourselves rollerblading, playing hockey, doing OCRs, playing with our kids. The battery was never good enough to record that long. It would become physically uncomfortable because the battery would become hot against your temple.

I'm sure all of that is true. Which doesn't change the tendency of people to think that the person looking at them who might be recording the conversation to send to their internet buddies is a weirdo. Thats true whether the distinctive-looking video-augmented eyepiece is Google bland or Snapchat childish

> why is a tech company trying to create an 'accessory' that nobody wants

Isn't this how, well, almost all consumer tech is created? Nobody wanted cellphones before cellphones. Nobody wanted smartphones before smartphones. Users don't demand things, they choose from what's available.

Google created a pretty cool piece of tech, and I'm personally saddened it failed. Hopefully someone else does the marketing part right. Or even better, I hope that maybe component prices will go down (particularly, prisms for AR displays); I'd happily build a DIY solution for myself.

"Nobody wanted cellphones before cellphones."

Everybody wanted them. Do you remember 'car phones'?

Everybody wanted something they could hold in their hands to talk to other people.

Nobody wants a 'computer on their face' which looks like a computer, and doesn't do much.

Snapchats glasses fit perfectly with the Snapchat experience, which on the whole is nothing like most other chat apps, and nothing like Google.

Snapchats glasses are focused on sharing 'serendipitous moments of irreverence among young people' - and that's exactly their brand promise.

I'm not sure if these glasses will become mainstay or grow to be something bigger - but everyone in tech should take note of how Snapchat is doing this.

It's brilliant. Nobody in the Valley - save maybe Apple - even comes close to this kind of smart consumer marketing.

Besides, Karl lagerfeld is a famous fashion designer (couturier) that happens to take photos, not a photographer.

I think he'd disagree with you :P

>How soon we forget: Google Glass actually collaborated with Diane von Furstenberg (a famous fashion designer) and did a launch party at New York Fashion Week.

They still courted the tech press massively though, none of us remember that fashion week launch. But we all remember the guy screaming in the shower and Sergey on stage wearing Glass with Crocs.

I look forward to a future in which we are all wearing ridiculously walled-garden tech on our faces, and a future in which we've gotten over it. I feel like just as we're slowly recovering the art of making food from the excesses of the early 20th century, our children's children will have to recover the art of being a social human being from the excesses of the early 21st century.

I recognize that otherizing an inevitable technology (ubiquitous connected vision) is taking the wrong side of history, but I hope my grandchildren make fun of my children for it.

I think it's interesting that the article did not describe the device's capacities at all.

In the meantime, I think Snapchat's marketing angle is ingenious. They decided to build trust, but not in the community of makers as Google did, they built trust in the community of shameless consumers (I mean that non-perjoratively). Google's mistake is understandable when you think that they are also trying to be respected in the cloud/app maker/developer space. Snapchat does not have that problem.

>In the meantime, I think Snapchat's marketing angle is ingenious.

IMHO it's not something very ingenious, they are shooting ideas - some of them stick to the wall.

> They <...> built trust in the community of shameless consumers

..and that's why the idea sticks (just like whole snapchat et al.). It's shameless and to put it more straight - frequently egoistic (and maybe arrogant as well?) users who use this and go crazy about it.

With google's glass the media raged about how it's a huge privacy problem [&]. Snapchat's spectacles? Genius!! Short memory.

[&] Though to be more critical, having a huge price point and available to few people was the problem as well, but IMHO the media sunk the ship before it was a float by labeling it as a huge privacy issue.

Hm, yes... Let's ponder for a moment on why, when a data mining company sells a product that gives them access to a ton of private data, people are skeptical. While a company whose main product is built on the concept of deleting data, doing the same thing, gets a pass?

I would be extremely doubtful of that.

IMHO next step for snapchat is somewhere in AR and I bet that they are using data from their users for testing/training their face recognition. Also pictures/videos can be one of their assets for creating other features/products. Snapchat has ads, so data collection for ad targeting is extremely likely.

My phrasing was a little muddy.

It's not really relevant whether Snapchat does data mining behind the scenes. But their brand is built upon ephemeral data. The exact opposite of Google.

It has nothing to do with "short memory" when the public reacts less creeped out than when google tried to push a similar product.

The reason why it's not a privacy issue? You can tell when someone is snapping with spectacles. You could have no idea someone was taking a photo with glass. It's different.

Why wait? Just read Tokyo Ghost. [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Ghost

"Tokyo Ghost is an ongoing American science fiction comics series written by Rick Remender, drawn by Sean Murphy and colored by Matt Hollingsworth, published since September 2015 by Image Comics.

The series is set in 2089, a time when humanity is addicted to technology and entertainment. It follows the story of constables Debbie Decay and Led Dent, working as peacekeepers in the Isles of Los Angeles. They are given a job that will take them to the last tech-free country on Earth: the garden nation of Tokyo."

It kinda looks like Transmetropolitan in style. Are they similar?

There are some echoes, which you'd expect with a near future dystopian vibe. However, in the Tokyo Ghost world everything is already fubar - everyone knows it and no one is surprised by anything horrible.

I look forward to a future in which we are all wearing ridiculously walled-garden tech on our faces

I'm already experiencing this in the small with people who are glued to the Apple ecosystem (I'm a Mac user, I just don't use an iPhone or Facetime, etc). Some people are so into iMessage and not on WhatsApp/Snapchat/whatever, that it actually impedes communication with them.

Why not just text them? It works everywhere.

I guess it just feels weird. Dropping in photos and emojis to that sort of context has become too much a part of normal friendly communication now that I feel a bit hamstrung without it. Luckily Facebook Messenger is the almost universal workaround for now.

some people don't want to text, regardless if you're on an iphone or not. I've had people I just don't talk to much anymore because they only want to use iMessage and hate when it's the different color for someone out of the ecosystem.

> I recognize that otherizing an inevitable technology (ubiquitous connected vision) is taking the wrong side of history, but I hope my grandchildren make fun of my children for it.

I'm "otherizing" that technology because it's a fucked up, perverted version of what it should be. Instead of interconnected, interoperable tools we get shiny, vendor locked-in toys. Mostly useless, crippled by shitty apps and not working well with anything. I myself want to wear tech on my face, just not the kind of shit that companies want to make.

> otherizing

what? Can you explain what you mean here?

I know what "othering" means but I have no idea how you would do it to a technology, or what it means to write it with the "-ize" suffix.

it's good marketing, but it's also an interesting tool.

hey, look, you can take a snap super-easily and unobtrusively with a much more intimate camera-angle.

google's mistake was...wtf was the point of glass? to look like a rich cyborg douchebag?

In retrospect, and especially in comparison, Google Glass really was beautiful, especially the lensless models. I respect the design in a similar way to something like the Microsoft Band, which didn't try to be a watch, but instead embraced the idea of a wrist-interface, with the display on the inside of the wrist, and running in-line with the band as opposed to perpendicular to it.

Maybe I'll feel that way about Spectacles in 2020.

Did they fix the privacy issues that arose with Google glasses or is everyone just conveniently forgetting that?

Yes, they decided to market it to people who don't care about privacy.

Snapchat-loyal press have been well trained to highlight the spinning LEDs and not question the privacy angle. Perhaps they're "ok" with it because clips are shorter and it's not the big bad G.

IMO while it's more noticeable than Glass's single pixel it's still a concealed camera.

People wear sunglasses on the top of their head, behind their head, etc. all the time. When they do that with Spectacles, they won't be directly pointing at the people they're talking to. So there's a potential for privacy-respecting etiquette with Spectacles- I have them on my forehead, I can't be recording you. Dunno if that was ever possible with Google Glass.

probably the same in practice, but glass really looked like it was trying to be inconspicuous / disappear, which made it much creepier. specs are so clearly conspicuous and not trying to hide that it makes them seem more harmless.

also, i'd say there's a general cultural trend of becoming more and more comfortable with less and less privacy.

> glass really looked like it was trying to be inconspicuous / disappear

How? If anything, the lense-less frame with a bulge on the side is very noticable.

well, it didn't do a great job of it :)

to me, it still looks stylistically like it's trying to disappear, like it wants to blend in and become unnoticable. it doesn't seem to be making an obvious "i'm here" fashion statement like the specs.

obviously it's a subjective emotional statement and difficult to support or refute, but i really do believe the vastly different appearances of the two products probably has a lot to do with the different reactions they are receiving.

people are emotional, visual creates.

The problem with glass was it tried to hide itself.

Spectacles are big and loud, they're the fashion equivalent of your face chanting "WORLD STAR! WORLD STAR!". You're going to be noticed wearing them and people will know what they're in for.

> Did they fix the privacy issues that arose with Google glasses?

Yes, thus: being filmed by a geek - creepy, being filmed by the cultural elite - you should be so lucky.


1) Artificial Scarcity

2) Geographic Clustering

3) Buying As An Experience

4) Identifying customers

Edit: Included 4)

Those are all good points, but the top ones are:

A) The fashionable design of the glasses, which are a cross between 'very contemporary cool design' with a hint of 'tokyo bubble gum plastic irreverence'

B) Aesthetically and functionally perfectly and seamlessly consistent with their brand, and their product experience.

C) When you say 'geographic clustering' - the more important point is where. Santa Monica, Big Sur. 'Cool Kid venues'. No t downtown LA or Orange County.

D) The 'scarcity' ... because there are so very few glasses being sold right now, I don't think it's an economic issue so much, although that applies - right now, the 'popup' store is a brilliant PR move. Every day, there'll be a huge buzz over where it is, and the kids getting them will proudly wear them to school, brag about them, creating all sorts of local buzz.

Snapchat is acting like Nike or Starbucks, and not a tech company, which is very smart of them.

Funny they are in LA - there are almost zero Valley companies outside of apple that know how to do proper consumer marketing.

Also identifying customers

Thank you, included!

I would suspect that techies are not particularly avid users of Snapchat in the first place.

I don't really get it or this product. I'm not sure why "ubiquitous shared vision is inevitable."

Wow. A pair of glasses that not even Karl Lagerfeld can make look cool.

Also- did Snapchat really think those tiny ballons were enough to lift that snapbot vending machine off the ground? Don't make me laugh, Snapchat!

TL;DR, don't make and market tech products for tech people, because they're all queasy autists who will make your product look dorky and ugly. Aim your products at the cool people, the beautiful people, the Kardashians and Iggy Azaleas of the world. They're the people who matter.

> They're the people who matter.

For the marketing purposes of driving mass adoption of your fashion product: yes, unquestionably. If tech people want to drive fashion, maybe they should stop looking down their noses at the industry and embrace it.

I see what you're saying, and I agree to some extent, but I'll make a distinction I believe in.

There's no doubt that tech people have mattered in driving a lot of products and services by being early adopters. However, there is a difference between "tech products" and fashion accessories, which I think this is, even if it happens to also be technical.

On a separate but related note, as a lifelong nerd I feel comfortable in saying this: There are few things I cringe more at than nerds getting rich and popular without handling that gracefully. If I were to market a product I would definitely market through "professional" famous people that are comfortable with that role, for good and bad.

When it comes to fashion (which wearables are) they probably are the people who matter.

Maybe this is the start of a sanity check in the IT world. Geeks are dorky and weird, and most of us have big social awkwardness. Maybe we'll find a good middle ground, where we could stop caring about looking cool and using the latest trendy tech, and just get back to be good professionals.

* The glasses are not a tech product *

And Snapchat is * not a tech company *

That's an important thing to get first :)

Yes they are and yes it is. Marketing is trying to convince you otherwise and I'm a little shocked you swallow it so easily.

"Marketing is trying to convince you otherwise and I'm a little shocked you swallow it so easily"

I've worked in marketing and tech, I know the difference.

Snapchat is not a technology company, any more than Nike is.

Nike is a consumer marketing/apparel/fashion company, that invests a lot in 'sports tech' and used to be (in the 1970's) more of a purely sports tech company, but made the shift to lifestyle/brand apparel in the 1980's.

Snapchat is as much a 'technology' company as MTV, Pixar, Zara or Wallmart.

Excatly! it does not integrate with anything else apart from Snapchat (hence, it does not market/depend on the tech folks)!

"(hence, it does not market/depend on the tech folks)!"

You're right - but that was not my point.

It's not so much an issue of 'how it integrates' with other apps.

Snapchat is focused on 'sharing irreverent, serendipitous experiences among young people'. Technology is a means to that, and that is all.

They are a lifestyle brand more than a tech company.

The same way that Oculus () could never market to the Kardashians of the world. Different products, different target audience. Complaining about that is almost like complaining about the lack of dentures care products aimed at teens.

( it's kind of crazy how many aspects, technical and otherwise, one can come up with in which Snapchat spectacles and the Oculus Rift are exact opposites of each other, starting with one receives pixel streams from the outside, the other sends them to the inside)

We just elected a Twitter troll for president.


Who matter to drive sales ;)

>If you want to make something cool, don’t give it to geeks first.

Does anyone else get really tired of stuff like this? Why is it that every possible difference is celebrated except within liberal circles, with the exception that nerds are considered objectively bad. In fact the article comes across as body shaming.

I think you are confusing "liberal" and "mass consumer marketing"; in the latter, which is the issue here, focusing appeal on the interest of any isolated niche that isn't representative of the actual target market (nerds certainly qualify, but aren't the only niche with this problem) is objectively bad, in that it is manifestly harmful to the concrete objective.

Othering of "nerds" isn't restricted to liberals.

"othering" of nerds isn't restricted to liberals but it is especially hypocritical when they do it. Also liberals are predisposed to "other" nerds because they have chosen nerds to be the symbol of unaware privilege and crude libertarianism so in their thinking nerds deserve no sympathy.

I am somewhat amused by this because I've been a liberal and nerd my whole life, participated extensively in liberal activist circles, and never once encountered this among liberals (the closest to this I've seen would be some segments of the community's reaction to perceived ivory tower intellectuals that are distant from pragmatics, but even that isn't so much an othering as a sometimes white-hot debate about priorities and tactics within the movement.)

Even as a liberal I think there's actually something to this idea. You can see it with things like the financial transaction tax proposals that are clearly meant to hurt nerdy HFTs rather than affect banks. I think part of it is that nerdy HFTs aren't eloquent enough to explain what they're doing and how it benefits the world.

I would love to hear an explanation of how beating the next guy by 1ms is helping the world enough to justify obscene payouts.

Go for it.

So first, why it's important for me that we're able to trade continuously. Suppose I'm an HFT who trades the S&P 500 ETF. I put out a buy order at 217.75 and a sell order at 217.76.

If a trader comes in an buys the ETF from me at 217.76 then I need to be able to hedge immediately in other products. Without continuous trading I would need to quote wider.

Second, HFTs make less money per dollar traded than the people who used to do this. In a sense, HFTs "won" because they were willing to do this cheaper than anyone else.

This is different from investment banking, where it's my impression that they get paid these huge fees because CEOs hire their friends and pay them with shareholders' money.

Lay out the case for the payouts being obscene.

Probably keep in mind that the nominal value of the stocks changing hands on a given day is hundreds of billions of dollars and that an actively trading counterparty is facilitating the movement of that money. What's fair compensation for that?

How did markets function prior to HFT? They're only facilitating exchange between other algorithms, right? And in that case how is it helpful to the market?

Note I'm actually asking these questions - not just being rhetorical. The whole concept of it seems plainly ridiculous to me but I don't know much about this area.

How did markets function prior to HFT?

You had 10 very tall loud guys in brightly colored jackets yelling at each other in a pit. Mentally they were running the same algorithms as HFTs, just slower.

Later on you had some fast fingered guys watching charts and mentally running the same algorithms as guys in the pit, just a bit faster.

Except the people were exploiting inefficiencies in markets (and still do today). HFT algorithms exploit inefficiencies in servers, ISPs, fiber optic cable, a competing algorithm's implementation, etc.

And the tall loud guys exploited inefficiencies in trading pits and human perception. Ask yourself why I explicitly described them as "tall loud guys in brightly colored jackets"? Those are not irrelevant details.

HFTs do the exact same thing that pit traders did. They just do it faster and cheaper.

And if you really think they don't provide a useful service, you can very easily NOT buy their services - just change one flag in FIX. The question to ask yourself is why everyone chooses to trade with them.


Those things can't be meaningfully separated from the market.

Exploiting inefficiencies in a competing algorithm is the same type of thing as exploiting inefficiencies in the mental model of the guy standing next to you. Taking advantage of better market proximity is the same type of thing as drinking less than the other guys in the pit.

If you presuppose that the purpose of trading is to make money in and of itself then sure. Of course the real (original?) purpose is more tightly coupled to reality and to real goods exchanging hands. There seems to be a fundamental difference between profiting from the exchange and profiting from the mechanism of exchange.

I'm not asking for how we ended up here. I get that faster = better and 1ms faster is still 1ms better. What I'm asking is what value it brings to the world — specifically the world outside of, historically, the pit, and today, outside of the computers executing trades.

Are goods more accurately priced? Is there more liquidity in the market? Is the market more stable? Is the market more efficient, or is it only the technical implementation of the market that's made more efficient by these? Do these benefits, if they're present, outweigh the cost of things like flash crashes caused by algorithms? If flash crashes hurt all of us, then shouldn't we all be benefited by the algorithms when they're doing well? Do we benefit and by how much?

This is why people want "nerdy HFTs" to be taxed in a special way. Maybe it's because they can't articulate the value or maybe it's because there is no value. I can't see the difference and I can't get anything other than evasive comparisons when I ask what the difference is.

Borrowing a point from tptacek, Vanguard has come out and said that they have lower costs due to HFT. Their customers save money over the previous providers of liquidity.


(bounce "Vanguard chief defends high-frequency trading firms" through Google if there is a paywall)

Awesome, I appreciate the link. It's still not totally clear to me how/why this helps Vanguard, or whether the pros outweigh the cons for the market as a whole, but this is in fact the type of evidence that I've been asking for. Thank you for sharing!

It helps Vanguard because they don't make money through active trading: they are literally the vanguard of the movement, now practically accepted as orthodoxy, that funds should be passive and diversified across the whole market.

If you buy and hold, HFT helps you, by reducing the cost of execution --- both by reducing the spread, which is a tax you pay any time you place a market order, and by literally reducing trading fees. In fact, even if you're an active trader, HFT usually helps you: the only people truly harmed by HFT are the ones who tried to make a living selling liquidity before, who are now being outcompeted.

I think viewing the HFT tax propoals as being motivated by anti-nerd rather than a out accumulation of wealth that is perceived to be at the expense of people like the tax supporter where the tax supporter fails to see the social utility of the function producing the accumulation of wealth is, well, a significant case of seeing what you want to see rather than what is actually there.

Go read Flash Boys. It's almost literally "Revenge of the Jocks". You have a jock (Katsuyama) who is naively bro-ing down and schmoozing clients while selling button pushing services to them.

Suddenly some evil nerds come along and use computers to "pick him off"! ("Pick off" is a wonderful phrase Michael Lewis uses but never defines, but it somehow involves computers doing evil things.)

Finally, at the end, Katsuyama builds a new exchange with no nerds allowed.

I was planning on reading Flash Boys at some point but if this is your overall description of the book my enthusiasm has been tempered.

Have you read, and if so, would you recommend I read Flash Boys: Not So Fast by Peter Kovac for a more balanced/informed perspective on the subject? Should I read both? Keep in mind my knowledge of HFT is extremely limited.

I have not read "Flash Boys: Not So Fast", so I can't comment on it. I do however recommend completely skipping Flash Boys - it provides almost no new information and a lot of FUD.

If you want an introduction to HFT, I'll shamelessly plug my blog posts which describe the basic mechanics of it:

https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2012/hft_apology.html https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2012/hft_apology2.html https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2012/hft_whats_broken.htm...

I also wrote a few posts later on about controversial HFT topics: https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2012/flash_crash_flash_in... https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2014/fervent_defense_of_f... https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2014/quote_stuffing_is_a_...

My posts probably read more like a "how to program python" tutorial than a compelling Michael Lewis narrative, however.

The book Trading and Exchanges ( http://amzn.to/2f0qtJb ) goes into a lot more detail than my blog, but it costs about $50-$90.

I appreciate your response. I'm familiar with your blog but I haven't set a time aside to review your posts on HFT. I will certainly do so now. Thanks for linking me the relevant posts.

I was thinking more of outside support for the proposal. Pretty obviously, the inside-the-industry support is just supporting burdens imposed selectively on competing business models, which is common independent of nerd/jock associations.

It's almost enough to make you question whether "acceptance" as politic was actually about acceptance, or using the language of something agreeable to push a slightly different goal.

I say "almost" glibly, a refusal to see the machinery at work is how political movements lie to themselves.

Observe that those who say they want "acceptance", when they get it, complain about being "erased" or their thing "selling out". That has been a common refrain since at least the 60s... and it is even more common today.

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