1. Technology
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

What Is Snapchat?

Exploring the Mobile App That Lets You Chat with Photos and Videos


Snapchat app logo
Snapchat, Inc.

Snapchat -- what exactly is it? And why has it been quickly sweeping up mobile users faster than anything else?

Get ready for an introduction to one of the trendiest new ways to quickly interact with friends. Snapchat is all the rage these days among the youngest smartphone users, including teens and young adults.

What Is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a mobile app you can download to your iPhone or Android smartphone, which you can then use to “chat” with friends through photos, videos and captions. You can sort of think of it to be like texting with pictures or videos.

One of the most unique things about Snapchat is the “self-destructing” feature for photos a few seconds after photos have been viewed. For example, when you chat with a friend by sending them a photo, the photo is instantly deleted seconds after it’s been opened by the recipient.

Teen Snapchat Users & Sexting

The heaviest Snapchat users are teenagers and young adults who submerge themselves in social media and are pretty addicted to their smartphones. Because Snapchat photos self-destruct automatically, a big trend has emerged: sexting via Snapchat.

Kids are basically taking provocative photos of themselves and sending to their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends using Snapchat, and they feel more liberal about doing it because they know that those photos get deleted after a few seconds.

Saving Snapchat Screenshots

The general rule of Internet sharing goes something like this: if you put it on the web, it will be there forever – even if you delete it later. It’s reassuring to know that Snapchat content is automatically deleted soon after it’s been viewed, but there are still ways to capture that content and save it… forever.

According to the FAQ section on the Snapchat website, users are notified if any of their recipients try to take a screenshot of any of your Snapchats. Screenshots can indeed be captured if a user does it quickly, and the sends is always notified about it right away.

In late December of 2012, a security flaw was brought to our attention. BuzzFeed actually published a full tutorial on how you can save and upload all the Snapchats (or content from rival clone Facebook Poke) straight to your computer. Both Snapchat and Facebook released statements saying that they were working on addressing the security issue.

Facebook Poke 

In late 2012, Facebook announced that it was coming out with an app to compete with Snapchat. The Facebook Poke app was released, closely resembling almost everything about Snapchat.

A lot of eyebrows were raised shortly after Facebook Poke was released. Many criticized the social networking giant for creating a complete copy of such a successful app and raised questions about potential problems in Facebook’s product development area. Two weeks after Facebook Poke launched, it never broke into the top 100 apps on iTunes – while Snapchat remained took the fourth top spot.

Facebook Poke failed to match Snapchat in terms of capturing a strong user base. Maybe Zuckerberg should have stuck to its retro “poke” function we all used to have fun with on our Facebook profiles back in 2007.

Getting Started with Snapchat

Now that you know what Snapchat is and what to look out for in terms of security, here’s how you can start using it. You need to download the free iOS or Android app from iTunes or Google Play.

The app will ask you to create an account by entering an email address, a password and a username. Snapchat will ask if you want to check to see which of your friends in your social network are already using Snapchat.

Although it reminds us a lot of SMS texting, the app works with your data plan or WiFi connectivity when sending and receiving Snapchats. Keep in mind that once a Snapchat has expired, there’s no way you can look at it again.

Snapchat Stories

A new feature was released on Snapchat that allows users to publicly post photos or videos for a 24-hour period of time. You can learn more about Snapchat stories and how to use them here

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.