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Does Snapchat's CEO Need to Go? (cnn.com)
72 points by goronbjorn 1417 days ago | hide | past | web | 84 comments | favorite

Where does media punditry get off on making absolutist calls for heads to "roll"? I mean, imaging if random non-experts had a journalist fired for every failed-prediction or embarrasingly wrong policy analysis penned in an op-ed? There would be no journalists left !

Journalists for the most part are attention-whoring nobodies with no expertise in any particular subject, who hide behind overly aggressive and opinionated words. Watch pundits on any news channel, or read any massively circulated news source and it's pretty clear to confirm what I'm saying. They jiggle their jowls with such empty emotion and intensity.

May be harsh, but I think it's pretty accurate.

Equating "journalists" with "pundits" is completely wrong. Sarah Palin, James Carville, et cetera are pundits (among other things), not journalists.

Punditry is not journalism. Journalism is not punditry.

That said, I find it morally repugnant that 001sky seems to want to quash the right of either to engage in public speech, simply because said speech calls some entrepreneur's credentials into question. It's fine for any person (be they a research-oriented journalist or a bloviating pundit) to raise these sorts of questions, even if I think their position is weak and a tad ridiculous.

If you, as an entrepreneur, are too weak to handle public scrutiny (including scrutiny from people who are quite unlike yourself), then you should find another line of work.

Punditry != journalism, you're right. But I think what I said applies to most in both categories.

Journalists provide an important check on politicians and business leaders. Not every journalist is intelligent, but to dismiss journalism as "media punditry" writ large is a gross overstatement.

Specific to this case, I consider Dan Primack to be an informed technology/finance writer whose opinions are well-researched and who is highly plugged-in to the tech sector (which is a sign that others trust his judgment).

Um.. That's sort of their job? Why the outrage here? It's not like the story actually calls for Snapchat's CEO's head to really be severed. That might be offensive.

I think the author's point is a good one. If CEO is really so obtuse he should go. If he is being coached to act this way then his coach should be fired[1].

Pretty straight forward business journalism. It's not like the business journalist went on a long diatribe about API security. That would be out of place.

[1]Unless your argument is that in order to criticize a business leader's actions you must outline each of the myriad possible corrective steps between "Do Nothing" and "Terminate".

On one hand you have a CEO that responded slowly to a fairly mild privacy exploit. On the other hand, he created an apparently billion+ dollar company almost overnight. So, I'm going to guess that SnapChat should keep its CEO.

On the third hand, he's turned down two offers of three to four billion dollars. Perhaps he should be fired for that!

That is a totally fair point, and you might be right.

But I cannot understand the low-grade media backlash here. That was my point. It seems like writing an article with the thesis that "whoever is planning crisis management at Snapchat is horrible an needs to go" isn't wildly beyond the pale.

For a meritocracy to work there must be consequences for both good and bad actions.

A pundit's merit is judged by their page views; not by their correctness. Their salary is based off their readership. If their readership wants to be fed convenient lies that reenforce their world view that's their perogative.

And a CEO's merit is judged by their company's market value. Has this hurt their market cap?

That's the interesting thing about non-public companies from management's perspective. There's no direct way for the public or journalists to really tell if they're succeeding.

The best way to know would be to ask Google if they'd still offer $4 billion. I suspect they'd make a lower offer right now, but it's hard to tell.

I recently heard Sarah Lacy say they ensure their writers do not know the pageview count.

They get a really high CPM for the ads they place, so it's not all about the pageviews. If you wrote a bunch of linkbait or put a few slideshows up there, they might not have the same audience, and therefore wouldn't get the same CPMs they're getting now.

So not knowing the pageview count might actually help in the case of PandoDaily.

Presumably they still reward good performance though, so writers are still incentivized to attempt to get good pageviews, even if they cannot know the exact numbers themselves (and they can probably get reasonable estimates by watching mentions in social media)

Page view is just a proxy for reader engagement. There are other, better metrics that measure engagement.

What better measure is there for selling ads than the number of ads you sell?

demographics and dwell time

Such as?

Accuracy is not the point. It's sensationalist and it gets clicks, which generate money for the website. Why would you fire your most profitable content generators (i.e. journalists)? That would be insane.

Any idea how many disagreeable (and absolutist) things are published or broadcast every day in radio, newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and online?

Why should media punditry be bound to any requirement as to what they express, external to their boss / editor?

They don't get off anywhere in fact, they don't require your permission, as fortunately we still have a mostly intact free press and freedom of speech.

Thoughtful, nuanced commentary doesn't get as many eyeballs. This is part of the problem from journalist's personal brands becoming part of the news story. When I was growing up I had no idea what any of the people who wrote for the newspaper looked like, or what their names were for all but the very largest stories.

i'm shocked by the comments here.

it was a massive and anticipated security flaw. the CEO's reaction was not to fix it, not to apologize, but to arrogantly lie about the severity of the threat.

less than a week after the CEO deemed the attack theoretical, it happened. the CEO's reaction was not to fix it, not to apologize, but to offer an opt-out after the damage had been done.

not sure why snapchat is getting a free pass on this, but it's horrifying.

What I can figure out is why more hasn't been made of how the snapchat app doesn't delete viewed photos at all: it stores them in the phone permanently.



Seems to me like a massive breach of trust which defies the entire claim of the app.

I was confused by this for awhile until I started hanging around a group of people who use SnapChat almost as much as texting. For the most part they share innocuous "here's what I'm doing" type photos. They use SnapChat because it's a really easy to send a photo to everyone on their list at the same time individually when they want to share a photo of what they're doing at that moment, with no feed or wall or comments to maintain later.

Thus, they really don't care if the photos are saved anywhere because they're not concerned with the privacy of their photos--at worst the snaps they share are unflattering. Their main concern is that they don't want to maintain any photos later, they just want to tell each other 'hi, here's what I'm doing' and forget about it.

In other words, to them SnapChat isn't a platform to share photos secretly, it's a platform to share photos momentarily. SnapChat even sells it as this:

>The images might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that's the point. It's about the moment, a connection between friends in the present, and not just a pretty picture.

I get it now. I still don't like SnapChat at all (the UI is ugly, the UX is par, and I don't like the attitude of the company), but I see the user appeal and I see why the users SnapChat wants most will continue to use the app even though one of their friends may be keeping that picture they took of their thanksgiving turkey permanently.

How would that be an improvement over text messaging?

Thank god, finally some one explained it to me. I'm so released now.

Probably because SnapChat fixed that half a year ago.

Apparently, it's because a lot of HN commenters think that this kind of behavior is okay, because -- and I quote -- "he created an apparently billion+ dollar company almost overnight."

It's the same "high court, low court" inequality dynamics we see in the rest of the society, but this time in disguise of meritocracy.

I'm not attempting to defend Snapchat here, but it's probably because their primary user base is compromised of teenagers and college kids. I think it's fair to say that people don't value their privacy as much until they get older and experience the world for what it is.

are you an NSA agent?

That was a non sequitur, and basically HN's equivalent of a Reddit meme. Stop that.

Completely agreed. I wrote an article about precisely this: http://blog.samiurr.com/snapchat-another-example-of-the-hubr...

well, I guess the severity is in the eye of the beholder, or victim. A phone number identifying my name to a screen name isn't a big deal...It's unfortunate, but the world hasn't come to an end, it's not like the hackers were code breakers of the Enigma machine, where thousands would live and die as a result. I for one would call that 'massive' and 'severe'.

I think there is a generation who simply care not of privacy.

Is that really true? Why are people using Snapchat then, instead of SMS or even twitter?

It seems to me that the entire premise of Snapchat is that their users care about privacy (even if they are rather naive or uninformed about how privacy works).

in my opinion it's not popular because its private, its just easier to use to send pictures/videos to other people. the time limit makes it seem more "in the moment" good for a quick laugh and then its gone. a big plus is it lets you easily caption pictures and draw on them.

So the more interesting article here is "Do people even care any more?" Is Snapchat's CEO making an educated guess that his users are on the cutting edge of SN users and are already sharing a boat load of information and just don't care that much about the breach? Whenever FB makes any privacy changes there's usually a huge uproar. But not many of those complaining are high schoolers or college kids. Maybe they know their user base better than we think.

It makes sense: I have seen many security professionals complain on the principle, but not one user publicly state they are going to abandon SnapChat for that. These are roughly the generation that threatened to leave when Facebook rearranged buttons.

I'm not sure I got the extend of the issue, but: there is now an accessible database of phone numbers to SnapChat handles, right? I get how large scale hackers might use it (but presumably already have); or how a large marketing operation could use that to associate phones numbers that they have with handles, that are presumably unusable for the moment, unless SnapChat users would accept an friend invitation from a branded account.

However, the kind of spying that worries most SnapChat users should be from close relatives (parents, teachers, exes, cf. danah boyd’s research), people who already have your phone number, and already have seen your handle appear when they installed SnapChat, and were already denied access. That breach doesn’t change that. The social discovery feature functioning as it is was the issue, and that was already widely accepted.

It might be because the CEO is basically the same age as his users.

You would assume CNNMoney would be more concerned with the CEO's lack of a business plan rather than his lack of apology. Let's get our priorities straight here. I mean, if you're not making money, do you really have a business? Does any of this even matter? If a tree falls in the forest...

It takes a certain type of person to use Snapchat. A person that believes in unicorns. That is, someone that believes you can erase things you send over the internet. I suppose if you believe in that absurdity, then you may also believe in whatever nonsense the CEO might tell you about their enhanced security that will prevent this type of breach from ever occurring again.

Or you could just stop using the damn thing. Vote with your wallet, er, eyeballs.

Sorry is an emotion and this is a business. I don't care about how Snapchat "feels," I care about what they've done to fix the security issues and how successful that effort is.

If someone doesn't accept the blame, perhaps they're less likely to make sure the problem doesn't repeat.

It's a little strange how much vitriol that article contains. It's as if the author is just itching for someone to finally put one of those 20-something entrepreneurs who didn't have to climb the corporate ladder for decades in his place.

Asking for a person's head every time a mistake is made isn't something a mature person would do. Maybe Dan Primack (the writer) should be fired and replaced by an "adult" that won't make those claims... Now doesn't that sound ridiculous?

Take a deal and jump ship boys, your idea won't be worth anything in 6 months when the next big thing comes out.

Probably it's too late already.

its funny how when things go wrong in private companies, how quickly the general public thinks they can weigh in on how someone needs to stay with that entity.

Imagine building something and losing your influence over it to the rest of the world.

> Imagine building something and losing your influence over it to the rest of the world.

Happens a lot more often than you'd think.

If we are it's product, then yes it should be expected you can lose control over it.

If you put yourself out there, you probably should expect people to start forming opinions about you.

People are very quick to punish others, this shouldn't be surprising.

They simply need to own up to a poor implementation of a useful feature and take protecting user data more seriously.

Hah, good one...

When is the last time a company owned up to their mistakes and fixed them like that?

What's the big deal? In the age of surveillance, all data is public.

Tell that to the wife (possibly husband) hiding from her (his) deranged spouse.

Data breaches can have very serious consequences for individuals.

If you have this issue in your life, using any service is a bad idea. This includes Facebook, Pinterest, anything. When you interact with services you create data and in many ways data exhaust that can be used to locate you or reveal things about your interests, traits, etc.

Even without surveillance, I have always assumed that if I am putting something on the Internet, it is public.

The majority of Snapchat's userbase is young, often in their teens, and most likely not an engineer, software developer, or technologist.

I highly doubt they think the same way.

I'd also caution against employing such a cavalier attitude toward your users if you're building something that isn't 100% for the tech crowd.

Why is the author so focused on an apology? Does a forced apology really solve anything?

If I were a Snapchat user, I'd primarily be interested in what they're doing to prevent anything of the sort from happening in the future.

apology? these are two kids from Stanford who made a fun project and it just so happen to take off. Give them a break, their team of less than 5 people could careless what the public thinks!

Lawsuits don't care what you are, but they tend to happen to startups and business which have cash on the balance sheet. This is no joke. Investors have a fiduciary duty to their LPs, and even if its the wrong move, a managerial "change" transmits investor diligence to the LPs.

Snapchat isn't a "project" anymore. It's a business.

that turned down a $3b sale. staggering that this call was made.

For an application that... does what? Shares short-lived picture/video messages?

Maybe I don't quite get Snapchat, but color me unimpressed.

Things people say at early stages of tech companies:

Facebook... it's just a way to create a profile of yourself and share pictures and messages. Color me unimpressed!

Tumblr... it's just a basic blogging platform... nothing new? Color me unimpressed!

Twitter... it's a 140 character status updates? Color me unimpressed!

I'm still unimpressed by all three of those things (technically speaking). Perhaps they've got some cool stuff going on underneath somewhere, but as technologies, as whole, they just seem sort of lackluster to me for much the reasoning that you've mocked above. Perhaps I'm simply an outlier.

Assuming that a startup's early state is little indication of what it eventually turns into, why would somebody invest in any one over another? I cannot imagine a whole lot of people saying "well, this Snapchat thing looks really stupid now, but hey, who knows, it may be big one day!"

>Perhaps they've got some cool stuff going on underneath somewhere

They definitely do.

>they just seem sort of lackluster to me for much the reasoning that you've mocked above.

Not everyone is capable of being Elon Musk and creating SpaceX and Tesla. These types of products are low-hanging fruit for people with 0 initial capital.

>Assuming that a startup's early state is little indication of what it eventually turns into, why would somebody invest in any one over another?

Engagement and growth.

I don't know if the offer was reasonable or not, so I am not going there. But the "value" of such start-ups are often their user-base, not the product or the technology itself. Can someone else implement a similar idea? Absolutely. Would they be able to get all these users? Probably not.

Oh. Of course.

That makes me sad :(

I use to not get why people value them so high but if you look at the age group of pre-teens - early twenties, most of the younger users almost use it exclusively while the older ones use it along with Facebook/Instagram.

What I dont understand is how they make money beside getting people to invest in them.

It doesn't even do it good. It's easy to stalk your friends and see who they message the most and figure out when they do. It was just first.

I still feel like I'm missing something.

This is what makes me despair about ever possibly being some sort of inventor/entrepreneur. While I was under the impression that cool new things are what people are after, what they're really interested in, apparently it's just... things like this.

You just never know what will catch on. I don't see what the big deal is with Angry birds, Candy Crush or that awful-looking mindcraft game... but here I sit, very wrong about my predictions and not having tens of thousands flowing into my bank account every month. I think what the public wants is something that's easy to pick up, addictive and naturally fits into their daily routine.

Maybe I should just go make this game - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is12anYx2Qs

It's a business that doesn't have any business.

Did you read the WSJ Andreesen interview that's on the frontpage (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7007332)?

He gave a plausible and coherent explanation of Snapchat's strategy (spoiler: Tencent of the West). I think that Tencent's valuation is stretched and I think Snapchat is unlikely to succeed even if that is actually their goal... but it was interesting, anyway.

edit: hey, w1ntermute, thank you for that interesting response. Cognitively I think my brain wants a tidy explanation for them turning down the $3B, otherwise I can't make any sense of it whatsoever.

> He gave a plausible and coherent explanation of Snapchat's strategy

No, he doesn't. All he did was demonstrate his utter lack of understanding of East Asia.

East Asian cultures are high-context, meaning that when Tencent released non-messenger services (that could actually turn a profit), users were much more likely to use them because they were already familiar with the company and its existing messaging service. But this strategy does not work well in the low-context cultures of the West, where people are more comfortable with giving new companies and products a chance. Snapchat cannot expand into other verticals with the ease that Tencent did.

That's what people said about Asia-style free-to-play games, too: that they would never work in the West due to cultural differences. Turns out that was totally wrong.

No, you're actually making the mistake of conflating China with the rest of Asia. Japan, which also has a high-context culture, has paid upfront for games for decades. And it wasn't just that free-to-play games were popular in China first, it's that paid games could never turn a profit because people would pirate them. There's a huge difference between people not using a product and people using it without paying for it.

The primary reason why free-to-play games became popular in the West is because the $0.99 floor that Apple set for the App Store drove consumer psychology regarding app purchases, which made it difficult to turn a profit in any other way. Just take a look at Steam to see how much money is being made from non-freemium games.

What you say is true.

The important aspect is that the "project" has millions of dollars in investment and employees. Thus, they are accountable to investors and employees who may care about what the public thinks.

I think this is exactly why there are concerns. People probably don't want a service relaying 400m message daily to be run carelessly.

Seems the journalist and a lot of commenters here are saying that a service like this needs to be regulated so that there are consequences for negligence or carelessness. There's probably something in that, but in the absence of a regulatory framework for social media systems, snapchat surely has no liability or requirement around data security (beyond existing regulations).

anybody remember tamagotchi? beanie babies? pogs?

snapchat is the pogs of 2013. its already 2014. clock is ticking.

Does Fortune's Dan Primack need to go?

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