Perhaps the fact that there are top-users lists highlights the tension between what Snapchat says that people use it for (sharing brief moments with friends) vs what people actually use it for.
In fact, I actually use Snapchat for sharing photos with friends, and I still would prefer that this network information disappear. The existence of a top list suggests that there is quite a bit of metadata retained long after the photos are (ostensibly) destroyed.
It implies that the company is building a database that could be used to reconstruct an enormous network diagram.
It's actually fun and trivial to do this yourself with a spider: go to http://www.snapchat.com/username, mark 'best friendships' as followthroughs. A fun thing you notice pretty quickly is that the 'best friend' designation isn't one-to-one, prolific snappers will appear often in peoples' friends lists.
I think a SnapChat API is likely on the way, and once they figure out a way to market this stuff to advertisers (hey, ten seconds of undivided attention towards an ad is probably worth more than thirty seconds of ignoring a commercial) they're going to have a whole new host of problems.
1.) Pay for SnapPro
2.) Sit through advertisements
3.) Let people who want to pay for SnapPro pay, while you don't because you don't want to pay for it. Therefore no ads, and Snapchat is making money.
Option 3 is the best for consumers. Option 3 is possible if the price-point dictates that enough people will pay for it to remain alive and well. Not everyone will pay. But when is that not always the case?
Isn't this the sort of thing that could be implemented as a peer-to-peer networking service?
You can only talk about the "all but 0" marginal cost when you can produce a piece of software that really does have an all-but-0 marginal cost. And, therefore, doesn't require the computer running it to be always on, or run on a dedicated VM, etc. Sure, such a thing may be possible, but you have to produce it first.
There are plenty of distributed designs which could be secure and "read once within a time period".
(btw, a distributed network topology can look isomorphic to a centralized topology at the application layer. You seem to have a highly simplistic map of the territory.)
Snapchat has always positioned itself as a temporal messaging app, where anything goes - but only for a few seconds. It's always meant to be the foil to our Facebook, Google+, et. al., culture of heavy-hitting, abundant, follow-you-everywhere data trails. Why they would embrace this functionality - betraying their core value-proposition - is puzzling.
Whether this data has been theoretically accessible for some time now is somewhat immaterial - unless we're collectively proving our cleverness by correcting the author. The take-away is that Snapchat has seemingly flipped it's core promise - a non-permanent trail and ostensible privacy - by including this "top friends" feature.
However, the trust part is extremely difficult. Savvy users know that they can't trust 3rd parties with data and usually talk about encryption, self-hosting, P2P etc (that kind of stuff). i.e. not really 'trust' per se but more that privacy is 'built in'. Normal users (the vast majority), don't understand this stuff so the only thing they can do is have some faith in the company/service and carry on blindly (until they get burned).
Trying educate your market is a sure-fire way to go out of business. I don't know how developers can seize this without users already understanding why security/privacy (at a technical level) matters.
Even if Snapchat isn't making a big network diagram it's certainly possible to create one.
To those saying that if you have nothing to hide you should not have a problem with this, you are missing some points, and situations...
For example, sometimes you do things that are controversial, but not necessarily wrong, or "sketchy", and you don't want the negative attention.
For example, regarding the Verizon call list: What if people discover you have made lots of calls to KKK? They will quickly jump to conclusion that you are probably a neo-nazi, but maybe you was like that black guy that made a KKK documentary (I forgot the name, I saw in school many years ago, a teacher showed us) and interacted a lot with them.
Or snapchat, what if you are exchanging photos with people with some other people dislike? You never had friends that hate each other? Or your mom that hate your girlfriend? Or your wife that hate your uncle?
There are lots of situations where privacy is important, and beyond commiting crimes or being a anti-government rebel...
In addition, the idea that privacy is necessary to a full life and full persona has been addressed by an array of scholars and privacy experts; consider Decew's In Pursuit of Privacy: Law, Ethics, and the Rise of Technology as one good place to start.
The thing is, Verizon isn't handing over identities. This isn't to absolve Verizon here at all, but to illustrate that the US Government can't find terrorists this way.
Just because the confidential subpoena that was leaked didn't specify the release of identifying information doesn't indicate the government doesn't already have that data to cross-reference.
Also, at least in the U.S., I believe landline numbers are public record, so if you're calling your wife on the ol' landline...
Not that I'm pro verizon, just that is a very poor example.
> They will quickly jump to conclusion that you are probably a neo-nazi, but maybe you was like that black guy that made a KKK documentary (I forgot the name, I saw in school many years ago, a teacher showed us) and interacted a lot with them.
It does not means that you would be black, it means only that you would be making KKK documentary like that black guy.
on a related note. it would be amusing to trace all these relationships by scraping the site for common usernames and then following jumping down through their friends list.
I'm not necessarily making a moral judgement on Snapchat but I do think it is something to consider. You can see the same mentality around Chatroulette. I realize the value of something is not concrete at first; Twitter comes to mind. I think we all agree that Twitter plays an important role in society today, yet that was unclear a few years ago.
As a society, are we rallying behind an app that helps people engage in extramarital affairs as this post suggests? Without getting into morality, don't we agree that affairs impact not just the two participants but the families surrounding them?
Are we simply justifying our obsession with "success" by attributing some theoretical benefit when the drawbacks seem obvious?
I use SnapChat daily and its starting to cannibalize a lot of my other methods of communication: its fast, more personal, more affective, and a lot more fun to use. I only have ~forty SnapChat friends compared to the ~1200 on Facebook or ~300 phone numbers I have, and it makes it a lot more intimate: you're not gonna send a goofy face of yourself to that study partner from freshman Biology who you never talk to.
(Honestly, it reminds me of what Path could be if Path wasn't so pretentious.)
Oh, and email helps people commit extramarital affairs, too.
The comment about email isn't really logical. Crow bars help you kill people but that doesn't mean we should treat them the same way as guns. I'm sure there is a technical term for it (logical fallacy) but that's besides my point and I'm on mobile :).
This is exactly my point.
Not sure I follow. Are you saying that "crow bars kill people too, so we shouldn't have legislation for guns that don't also apply to crow bars?"
If so, we probably disagree fundamentally on debates - which is fine but an important point.
For the sake of argument, lets just say that extra-marital affairs being immoral is axiomatic (I don't agree, but that is not going to be a productive discussion). The two people who made vows are the ones with the moral obligation, not the rest of society. Every individual third party is not part of that arrangement, and who are they to second guess somebody who is in that agreement? Both are consenting adults, there is no justification for us telling them what to do. If they want to promise each other something, and then go back on that promise, that is entirely between them.
I think that line of reasoning is projecting far too much onto a photo sharing service. I use it to share silly photos with friends. Just because someone else uses it to conduct an extramarital affair doesn't make the service per se immoral.
It could be that Snapchat is terribly useful.
You're just now coming to terms with this? Jesus Christ, we're doomed.
I tend to assign the values the other way around; Snapchat seems like something people get a lot of fun from (and I don't mean affairs, just friends sending each other pictures they don't want to post publicly). It's not a "worthy cause", but it's a moral good, possibly the greatest such thing.
Conversely twitter seems like a net negative; the main way it impacts me is that news organizations now seem to think it's ok to publish comments from random people as if they were news. And people in fora like this seem to think they can dismiss an idea by linking to a witty tweet about it. It's a dumbing down of discourse and I'm seeing no upside; I think I would genuinely have a better life, and be happier, if twitter didn't exist.
Twitter isn't perfect but one thing if does is to give a voice to those who didn't have one before. I'm thinking specifically of oppressive governments and the affected citizens or folks being harassed by law enforcement.
I hope that benefit outweighs the media's misuse of it.
Does it really help with that? I'd think for anything important you'd want to spend more than 160 characters explaining it; long-form blogs and tumblr seem like a more effective way to spread such stories. E.g. the report of events in Turkey that was on HN a couple of days ago was fascinating, and I suspect quite influential - and I don't think it would've been anywhere near as effective as a tweet.
Say, abused/neglected person looking for a way out, but not feeling safe without some sort of social support outside of marriage. Don't be too quick to judge.
I'm definitely not a Mark Zuckerberg fan, but imagine one of your hobby projects suddenly turning into this phenomenon, when you probably just created it for a certain social circle.
I think we should cut "incidental start-ups" some slack for a while, but Snapchat definitely need to do something about their privacy, especially since it goes against the entire value proposition.
Agree. I'm just not sure we're taking the "effect" of a start up into consideration when we put them up on pedestals.
Perhaps there isn't interest in the "effect", which is what I was alluding to.
Uh, how does Twitter play an important role in society?
In most other countries I'd value Twitter's contribution to society about as much as McDonalds commercials...
I'm not saying this makes up a majority of tweets. Most tweets are pretty meaningless, IMO.
I wrote Privy with a very simple use case in mind. It was for sending messages that you never want to resurface. Privacy, of course, was paramount.
After reading a few interviews with the Snapchat guys, I was amused that they always pitched it to be about temporal communications. They would downplay Snapchat as a secretive transport and talk about how it's more about sharing special moments. These new "un-private" features very clearly show that Snapchat is sincere about this use case.
It simply never occurred to me that people might want to send temporal messages and that privacy around sending those messages not be absolutely critical. I don't know if I'm out of touch or what. Or maybe this is more of a natural selection thing for successful mobile messaging products. Obviously the network effect of a privacy-oriented app is by definition nonexistent. Trust me.
Being a side project, Privy wasn't able to compete. Especially after they started picking up funding. Once the Snapchat buzz hit full fever pitch I threw in the towel on development.
I used to think that useful apps could sell themselves. I know a lot of developers have this mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. I now have much greater respect for the value of good marketing.
They raised money in the Spring of 2012, and were still relatively under the radar of most tech publications. It wasn't until the Fall of 2012 that they started getting major buzz.
I'm not disagreeing that marketing can't sway products into success, but that was not the case with Snapchat.
So do you authenticate with IMEI or phone number?
That way the system never knows the sender's identity or to whom the message was sent.
Not a quick learner, I'm afraid.
It's spooky accurate and yet Facebook goes out of their way to never mention this kind of thing: they don't want us to realize how well they know us!
He said, do some potential users get annoyed with all the gifting and invites and requests for help? Sure! But those are not the users that are going to get your viral coefficient over 1 (each user brings in more than one other user) and trigger geometric growth. So even if you miss out on some users because you write a game that is very social, you are still doing the right thing, because the social users are the one who make you a hit.
Same thing here. Are a few privacy minded individuals like the author going to abandon the service? Sure. Are they worth as much to the company as users that will revel in social graphs and drag friends in? No way. Is it a mistake to add social graphing in this case? No it isn't.
Once you give someone the ability to see or hear something, there is no guaranteed way to take it back.
I say this because: "You revoke access to anyone in the future that even if they have the image, without the privilege, the file is useless"
In the same respect, you can't really stop people from taking screenshots or take a photo of... a photo. What we do is we put a watermark of the recipient in the image. This way, if that image get released anywhere, you knew who was the culprit and you can take further actions.
No box is ever impenetrable, then the next best thing is to know when, what, why, whom of the penetration. I hope that helps. It is a difficult problem to solve, however, we have to do something!
Thank you for your thoughts.
In particular, the people we communicate with is not "one of our tightest guarded secrets," especially among the teenage demographic. The term 'bff', for example, has meaning because teenagers like to declare their relationships publicly. Of course our friendships define who we are, and we use those friendships to express our identity in the same way we use fashion to express our identity.
I doubt a large part of Snapchat's usage is for extramarital affairs and the like, and the company is probably happy to make the app less useful for that, and more useful for communication between friends. By making the top friends visible, if user A looks at user B's profile and sees herself as third in the list, and is jealous of the people in the first two spots, then the best thing for user A to do about it is... send more snaps.
The White House and others defending the practice keep repeating “it’s just metadata.”
Knowing exactly who you talk to, when, where, and for how long can expose a lot about you and be pretty incriminating!
If everybody had perfect transparency, it'd happily give up my privacy, because it would benefit society (you, me, us all) tremendously!
Love this because they're exempt from the downsides and they have juicy details on their friends.
Hate this because their own details are now public.
...but I was building a crawler for fun and have been making tons of requests - the other pages seem to be working just fine. Anyone else having trouble? Did Snapchat do the right thing and shut down user profiles?
Nothing is free kids.
What am I missing? Please educate me.
At the most basic level you can use one phone to take a photo of another phone. If the object is to expose an embarassing photo, that may be enough resolution to accomplish the end. I really think it is impossible to secure the data once it is on a client.
I'm not embarrassed by the people I communicate with - hell that would make my friends list on facebook a nightmare! And when you see my snapchat best friends, it's my girlfriend and 1 other guy and 1 other girl - my 2 top traveling friends. We use snapchat while on the road to share funny, temporal traveling moments that don't warrant setting up a real shot or publication. And it's a lot of fun.
I suppose if you need anonymity for your snaps you shouldn't be sharing your username with those you trust. And you shouldn't be trusted, either.
Clearly the solution is just to create a toggle for that feature in Settings. Boom... make your "being shady" user persona happy in a matter of minutes.
It's a reverse of Instagram's approach.
The private camera function is much better than Snapchat because I can send my private photos to ANYONE not just someone who has Snapchat.
The ability to watermark the image with the email or the phone number of my friends is WAY better than a notice that someone took a screen shot IMHO.