snapchat Tag

Slingshot Finally Becomes Usable, Perhaps Too Late

Picture 8-8-2014You may recall that I discussed the launch of Slingshot back in June, which was another of the many, many Snapchat competitors that have been launched since Snapchat’s enormous surge in popularity over the course of the past year, this one being run by Facebook. Upon its release, social media blogs were largely skeptical about whether or not people would embrace Slingshot, and for good reason. Slingshot effectively worked this way: a user sends a photo a friend, but that friend could not unlock the photo until sending their own photo, creating an infinite, confusing loop that would make it impossible to have a photo-based conversation.

To many, including myself, Slingshot’s primary difference from Snapchat simply didn’t make any sense, and this is a feeling that was generally ubiquitous across its user base (which, of course, pales in comparison to the user base that Snapchat has been able to boast). Thus, it was really no surprise when Facebook updated Slingshot to remove this odd feature completely, so that any photo, video, or text message can be immediately replied to.

In addition to removing the oddness that made Slingshot ineffective and unusable, they have also added a ‘My People’ feature, allowing one to see everyone that they are ‘slinging’ with. This is a feature that seems to bring the application even closer to Snapchat. In fact, right now, since they removed the initial feature that separated Slingshot from Snapchat, I’m not sure what makes Slingshot any different, apart from some aspects of the interface and design. Considering Instagram (who are also owned by Facebook) launched their own Snapchat-clone called Bolt just recently, I find it unlikely that Slingshot stands much of a chance at remaining in the competition.

Bolt: Yet Another Snapchat Competitor

Picture 7-31-2014It wasn’t very long ago that I mentioned that Facebook had launched Slingshot, their own answer to Snapchat (after previous failures such as Facebook Poke). The app hasn’t been especially well-received and its confusing requirement that one cannot view a photo until they sling a photo back is the main reason people appear to be turned away from it, compared to Snapchat’s simplicity. One of Facebook’s famous subsidiaries, Instagram, has also launched their own individual attempt at creating a Snapchat competitor; this new application is known as Bolt.

Word first began to arrive about Bolt about a week ago, when some Instagram users began to report that there were dead links showing up in Instagram mentioning a free ‘one tap photo messaging app’ called Bolt. No comments were made until Bolt was officially unveiled a couple of days ago. What’s odd about the launch of Bolt is that it’s not available in the United States (at least not yet); it has only been launched thus far in New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. These countries were reportedly chosen due to their geographic diversity and tight-knit communities.

The primary difference between Bolt and the other massive amounts of applications that do the exact same thing appears to be that less taps on the touch-screen need to be made to perform the same thing. Perhaps the people behind Bolt are aiming for the simplicity route, like Yo, but social network commentators seem to be skeptical about whether or not that’s different enough to be worth using when other existing applications that people are already familiar with have all of the same basic features.

The interface for Bolt is a little bit different, in that you can click on the picture of a contact rather than a username, like you would using Snapchat. However, other than this and the fact that it requires slightly fewer taps, it doesn’t appear that there’s much difference at all between Bolt and Snapchat (or the endless stream of other message, photo, and video sharing apps). According to Instagram, Bolt will soon be spreading to other countries; hopefully when it does, it will find a way to make itself better stand out from the existing herd.

Slingshot: Facebook’s Newest Answer to Snapchat

Picture 6-12-2014On Monday, Facebook briefly teased users (albeit accidentally) with a new standalone app called Slingshot, which appears to be their newest foray into creating a Snapchat competitor. Facebook previously attempted to compete with Snapchat using an app called Facebook Poke, which never really took off and was ultimately removed from the app stores after a year of failing to threaten Snapchat’s popularity. However, Slingshot differs in a few major ways from Facebook Poke and Snapchat, though it still maintains the ephemeral self-destructing nature of these previously existing apps.

The largest way that Slingshot differs from Snapchat is that users are required to send something to their friends in order to unlock the picture that has been sent to them. For instance, one person may ‘sling’ a photo to a friend, but that friend cannot see the photo until they ‘sling’ something back to the person who sent the initial photo. Some news sources are already skeptical about this feature, considering it could make it quite difficult to send reaction photos, which is something that is easy with Snapchat.

Slingshot emulates some features associated with other apps, such as Taptalk and Rando, which supposedly influenced the creation of the app. Though the Slingshot app is already intriguing, it was only available on the iOS App Store for a brief period of time. A Facebook spokesperson stated that Slingshot was accidentally released early, but that an updated version would be ready soon for users to try out. There is not yet any word on when the app will return to the market or when an Android version will be released; it also remains to be seen what additional features may be added to the app before it is finalized.

Snapchat Dives into Messaging and Video Chat

Picture 5-1-2014As older social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been updating their functionality to keep up with the times, newer social networks like Snapchat are adding new features in order to stay ahead of the game. In an effort to consolidate a large number of useful features into one mobile application, Snapchat announced today that its platform will now include live video chat and ephemeral messaging options, putting it in direct competition with other apps, without damaging the integrity of Snapchat’s original purpose.

In order to use these new functions, a Snapchat user simply must swipe right from the main camera screen, which will lead to their list of friends. From there, messaging and video calls can be made. One of the biggest draws to Snapchat is that pictures sent via the mobile app are ephemeral, meaning that they appear for a temporary amount of time before deleting themselves. Keeping in tune with this, the messages are also ephemeral and are erased after they are viewed.

Snapchat announced these updates by sending out a Snapchat message to all of its users, featuring a video that showed the messaging and video chat functions in action. There have been applications that featured ephemeral messaging that have been released to varying degrees of success, such as Ansa, but Snapchat’s ever-increasing popularity makes it quite likely that these new additions to the application will result in a purge of its rivals, or at the very least, will force its new rivals to implement additional features to their own mobile apps.

The Evolution of Social Network Security

Picture 3-20-2014There’s an odd conflict in the world of social networks regarding privacy. Although social networks tend to be an arena for users to share information with everyone that they know, no matter if these are truly friends or mere acquaintances, the overall privacy of these social network profiles is constantly a hot-button issue. People want to be able to share private information with other Facebook users that they befriended after meeting them once in a bar, but are up in arms if that same information is accessible by strangers or the government. Though this split is a little bit silly in some ways, there are some genuine concerns to be had here and it is generally believed that Facebook and other social networks are doing what they can to protect what their users might consider private information.

The fact of the matter is that social networks are ripe for security breaches. Considering many social network users do not think about if the information or pictures they are posting might be made public, it has not been difficult for hackers (or even government agents) to access potentially damning information about social network users. The NSA has been confirmed to use fake Facebook servers to install malware on computers so that they have an easier time monitoring unsuspecting social network users.

It’s not just Facebook that’s been ripe for privacy breaches. Twitter and Snapchat have had issues with leaked usernames and passwords, which Snapchat responded to at the beginning of the year with privacy updates to its iOS and Android apps. It has been stated that Snapchat has added internal restrictions that make it more difficult for hackers to access private information such as usernames and passwords and Snapchat has also added security features allowing Snapchat users to opt out of the ‘Find Friends’ feature that uses their cell phone number.

Facebook has recently made their work on security a little bit more public so that Facebook users can see exactly what is being done in order to keep their own information private from hackers, government agents, and anyone else that might try to breach security. Some, however, do not trust Facebook regarding its relationship with privacy, and believe that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp will lead to a lack of privacy in the popular messaging application as well.

One social networking and messaging application, Wickr, is already well-known for its impressive security and encryption features. The company has found a way to monetize their ‘Security Suite’ by offering it for sale to other social networks that wish to implement the level of privacy that is currently offered by Wickr, which has never sold user data or allowed any user data to be accessed by others. Wickr’s ‘Security Suite’ could be the wave of the future when it comes to social networking privacy.

Recent Security Breaches for Social Networks

Picture 1-2-2014In early December, it was revealed that there had been yet another massive breach in social network security, as 2 million passwords were stolen in a hack that affected accounts for Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and more. The hackers, who are believed to have originated from the Netherlands, were using a virus that allowed them to access information for more than 93,000 websites, including many major social networks.

More recently, it appears that the security of Snapchat has also been compromised. A recent hack resulted in information regarding 4.6 million accounts getting posted on a website known as SnapchatDB.info. Though the site has since been suspended, the hackers were able to get information regarding phone numbers and passwords for all of these individual accounts.

According to the people behind Snapchat, the hole that allowed for this security breach has been sealed. However, some people believe that Snapchat’s response to the hack is evident of their existence as a very young startup company. One particular issue is that a group of ‘white hat hackers’ – people who find holes in security so that companies can prevent these kinds of breaches – had explicitly told Snapchat that there were holes that could be exploited. Yet Snapchat ignored this and didn’t even admit to their mistake in not listening when they released a brief statement regarding the breach.

Though these breaches in security have been unfortunate for a lot of people, one website is trying their hardest to help people find out whether or not their account has been compromised. The website ‘haveibeenpwned‘ allows people to enter their e-mail addresses that are used for these accounts to find out if theirs are among the accounts that have been compromised by any of these recent breaches. The website checks Adobe, Snapchat, Stratfor, Gawker, Yahoo!, Vodafone, Pixel Federation, and Sony accounts.

Instagram Direct: Private Picture Messaging

Picture 12-26-2013Instagram’s most recent update has included the launch of a private picture messaging system that is being referred to as Instagram Direct. The service allows Instagram users to send each other private messages that can include photos or videos; this contrasts Instagram’s previous features, which only allowed the public posting of photos and videos to a user’s profile. Instagram Direct allows for special messages and private photos to be sent to up to 15 people at once.

It was truly no surprise that Instagram launched Instagram Direct this month, as there had been rumors regarding a direct messaging service for quite some time. It seemed like the obvious step that Instagram needed to take to become a more effective social network. Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, tried out a postcard service last year that would allow users to send paper prints of photos to their friends; the service never generated much interest and was quickly shut down. Physical printing and sharing was not what users wanted; they were simply looking for private messaging.

Though it was generally agreed upon that Instagram needed Instagram Direct in order to further evolve, responses to the new service have been lukewarm. One of the primary issues with Instagram Direct is that it does not do very much to separate itself from competing social networks and messaging apps such as the features available through Snapchat and Twitter.

Considering Facebook tried and failed to purchase Snapchat earlier this year, their foray into private picture messaging is going to inevitably be compared to Snapchat and Instagram Direct needs to do a little bit more to separate itself from the herd. It has been stressed, however, that the feature is currently in its earliest stages, so it remains to be seen if there will be new features revealed that may allow Instagram Direct to make a name for itself.

What Lies Ahead for Snapchat

Picture 12-5-2013Snapchat is reaching all-time highs in popularity at this time. According to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, there are 400 million snaps shared a day, which exceed s the number of photos that are shared through both Facebook and Instagram, proving once and for all that Snapchat is here to stay and it’s huge. To compare, Snapchat was seeing 350 million snaps a day in September and 200 million a day in June, meaning that the social network is growing at a shocking rate.

Needless to say, it’s no surprise that investment analysts are saying that Snapchat has a very long-lasting and lucrative future. The social network has more funding and a higher valuation than Instagram and even YouTube did when they were at Snapchat’s stage in their lifespan. It’s not too much of a shock that there have been rumblings of a $3 billion offer from Facebook hoping to purchase Snapchat. Many attribute Snapchat’s popularity to its lack of permanence, referring to the way snaps disappear after an allocated amount of time.

Facebook is not the only massive company that is interested in Snapchat, however. There are other rumors abound that Tencent, an enormous Chinese corporation involved in the biggest Chinese social networks, has already made a major investment in Snapchat. A partnership between the two companies is likely to be mutually beneficial, as it allows Snapchat to extend into Asia and Tencent to have their first American subsidiary.

Another recent news update for Snapchat is the recent hire of Emily White, who was formerly the director of business operations for Instagram. She will now be working as the COO of Snapchat and it’s very possible that this may be a way that Snapchat will be moving forward with advertisements and monetization. Instagram itself revealed its new ads in October, leading some to believe that White’s hire may lead to a shift in the marketing of Snapchat as well.

Kids and Teens are Getting Sick of Facebook

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Back in May, the results of a survey were released, revealing that teens were starting to grow a bit tired of Facebook, finding a number of reasons to instead be drawn to other social networks such as Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. Part of this is because of adults — including parents and grandparents — having an ever-growing presence on Facebook, which keeps Facebook from remaining ‘cool’. Other issues that were brought up included oversharing by their friends and ‘drama’ that would happen in real life because of Facebook.

Though Facebook repeatedly denied that teens’ interest in Facebook was waning, their recent quarterly financial statements have shown Facebook’s first-ever decrease in teenage daily users. Facebook continues to defend itself in regards to the fact that Facebook is still the highest-used social network by teens in the United States, but this admission led to a slight drop for Facebook in the stock market.

Apart from cyber-bullying and oversharing reasons, some news sources suggest that it could be Facebook’s mobile app that is holding it back by being so cluttered and full of options that it can be overwhelming and result in ‘decision paralysis’. When compared to simpler mobile apps that teens have been drawn to in recent years, it’s quite noticeable how much less clutter can be found on services like Instagram and Snapchat.

One of the reasons that teens appear to be drawn to Snapchat in particular is for the same reasons adults who use Facebook wouldn’t put certain information on LinkedIn. For instance, in the way that adults wouldn’t want to look like slackers by posting vacation photos on their LinkedIn profiles, kids and teens don’t want to have any of what they post permanently recorded on Facebook. Instead, they choose to share silly images and videos that are only temporary with their friends, so that their posts aren’t scrutinized and used against them at a later date.

Snapchat Experimenting with New Features

Picture 10-10-2013

I’ve talked about Snapchat before and how its simple interface led to it being referred to as ‘the next Instagram’. Snapchat was initially only set up to send temporary images and short messages back and forth between its users before expiring. Since its launch and especially in the past month or so, Snapchat has been making some tweaks to their existing formula, partially to add a bit more permanence to its typically temporary interface.

In particular, Snapchat has recently launched Snapchat Stories, which is essentially the ‘Timeline’ equivalent to Snapchat. Posts to Snapchat Stories last for 24 hours, compared to usual Snaps that only stick around for a few seconds once they have been viewed. Facebook has been in the news recent in regards to their upgraded search function that allows for users to easily find any posts that have ever been made by a Facebook user. This has called into question some people’s attitude towards permanency and Snapchat Stories appears to offer a happy medium between the quickly disappearing Snaps and the long-enduring posts on Facebook.

Snapchat introduced the Snapchat Stories function by debuting a variety of commercials that advertise the new feature, partnered with a number of bands and musicians. This is contrary to the way Snapchat has typically been marketed, and may have some implications for the way Snapchat is attempting to turn itself into a useful and marketable spin on the typical social network. For instance, Snapchat Stories’ 24-hour function could be a great way for businesses to send out limited-time coupons.

In addition to Snapchat Stories, Snapchat has also been experimenting with other ways to monetize their brand. For instance, Snapchat wants users to be able to connect with musicians and artists and simply double click their public posts on Snapchat Stories in order to easily purchase music or other products that are coming from those sources. These ideas are still in the early stages, but they show that Snapchat is working towards making themselves into a long-lasting brand.