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Snapchat is a mobile photo and video messaging application for Apple iOS and Google Android devices which allows its users to create and share photo or video messages that are only accessible for a short period of time. For each message, the sender can set a time limit (up to 10 seconds) for how long the message can remain visible to its recipient, after which it is deleted from the device and Snapchat’s servers.
In April 2011, Stanford University students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy began working on the application for a project in one of Spiegel’s product design classes. In July of that year, the program was named “Picaboo” and launched for iOS devices. In September, the app was re-released under the name “Snapchat," and in late October, Snapchat became available for Android mobile devices.
On October 29th, 2012, the tech news blog TechCrunchreported that SnapChat had received $485,000 in seed funding from the Lightspeed Ventures venture capital firm. In February of 2013, Snapchat announced it had received $13.5 million in Series A funding led by the firm Benchmark Capital, further raising the company's market value from $60 to $70 million. On April 16th, 2013, the tech news blog Mashable quoted Spiegel saying they are looking into advertising as a means of revenue.
The primary function of the app is to create multimedia messages known as "snaps," which may consist of a photo or a video with captions, filters and other special effects, and share them either privately with select individuals or semi-publicly as "stories." In private messaging, the snaps become inaccessible once they're read by the recipients and/or after a specific length of time (1 to 10 seconds) has lapsed. Despite the ephemeral design of the snaps, users can still take screenshots prior to their deletion.
Friends can be added via usernames and phone contacts, using customizable "Snapcodes", or through the "Add Nearby" function, which scans for users near their location who are also in the Add Nearby menu.
In contrast to Snapchat's private messaging mode, the "Story" mode allow users to share snaps in a chronological timeline that can be viewed by any of their friends for a 24-hour period. In addition, the "Live Story" mode allows any Snapchat users on-location at certain events, such as live concerts or sporting events, to contribute snaps in a publicly shared timeline.
Snapchat's Lens filters allow its users to add real-time effects into their snaps by using face detection technology which is activated by long-pressing on a face within the viewfinder.
On October 12th, 2018, Snapchat's official Twitter account posted a GIF to announce their Cat Lenses, which would allow users to place filters on cats. They captioned the tweet, "Lenses. For cool cats 😎 and their cool cats 😻 Try them meow." The tweet received more than 185 retweets and 700 likes (shown below).
Lenses. For cool cats 😎 and their cool cats 😻 Try them meow. pic.twitter.com/UFJtgt8ZWO— Snapchat (@Snapchat) October 12, 2018
Additionally, the official Snapchat YouTube account shared a video that feature the Cat Lenses. The post received more than 25,000 views.
The feature works in a similar way to the application's object recognition feature, which allows Snapchat to paste filters and stickers on inanimate objects. Cat Lenses uses the technology to identify cats and provides users with a series of novelty stickers and filters specifically for cats.
Following the posts, people shared images of cats with the filters on them on various social media websites (examples below).
On February 25th, 2013, the LA Times reported that South Carolina resident Frank Reginald Brown IV had filed a lawsuit against the Snapchat founders to have “his rights restored” after being pushed out of the company. In the complaint, Brown claimed to have worked on the app during the summer of 2011, purportedly naming the application “Picaboo” and designing the company’s smiling ghost mascot "Ghostface Chillah,” a reference to the Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah.
After having a falling out with Spiegel and Murphy in August, Brown alleged that the server account passwords were changed and that they discontinued all communication with him. On July 1st, the tech news blog TechCrunchreported that Brown had filed a new motion to disqualify the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP from representing Spiegel, Murphy and the Snapchat company, since Brown alleged that he had been advised by a Quinn Emaunuel lawyer about his legal case six months prior. Later that day, TechCrunch followed up with another article about newly obtained court documents relating to the case, which included several screenshot of an SMS conversation confirming that Spiegel had once admitted Brown was responsible for “the idea for disappearing picture messages" (shown below, left). On July 10th, ValleyWag published several messages cited in the documents in an article titled "Snapchat Had the Frattiest Creation in Startup History" (shown below, right).
On October 23rd, Brown filed a new lawsuit against Snapchat's investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Benchmark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, General Catalyst, SV Angel, GC&H Investments, SF Growth Fund and an unknown entity referred to as “THL A17.” The filing also included a comparison of two promotional messages for the app sent by Spiegel via e-mail, one that had been written before the falling out and a revised copy after Brown had been ousted (shown below).
Usage in Sexting
On May 6th, 2012, The New York Times Bits blog published an article noting that the app had a reputation for users sharing sexually explicit media, a practice known as sexting. On December 10th, Gawker published an article about a new Tumblr blog titled "Snapchat Sluts," which highlighted sexually explicit images screen captured from Snapchat. On December 18th, the PopCultured YouTube channel uploaded a video in which a guest panel discussed the controversial Tumblr blog (shown below).
On March 14th, 2013, Mashable reported that students at a New Jersey high school had been threatened by local police with child pornography charges for sharing sexually explicit photos using the service.
Dorm Search Prank
On April 8th, 2013, Snapchat was used to spread a rumor that dorm rooms at the University of Virginia were being searched by Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officials. Panicked students began spreading the word using the hashtag #UVAdormsearch, many of whom reportedly disposed of their alcohol in the university dumpsters.
"The current BAC of the dumpster: 5.6"— Kasey Stolba (@kstolbzz) April 8, 2013
After school officials learned of the prank, Dean of Students Allen Groves took to Twitter to announce that the ABC was not conducting searches.
UPD has just confirmed to me that ABC is NOT conducting searches on Grounds today. Someone has had a lot of fun at my students' expense.— Allen Groves (@UVADeanGroves) April 8, 2013
The Snappening refers to the massive leak of up to 200,000 privately archived photographs and more than 90,000 videos of Snapchat users obtained by unidentified hackers through a security breach in the third-party web-based client SnapSaved.com, and media coverage and speculation surrounding the event.
Since the introduction of the Lens feature, a number of Snapchat filters have come under criticism and accusations of cultural insensitivities.
- In April 2016, Snapchat released a Bob Marley-themed Lens filter in celebration of 4/20, which adds Rastafarian-inspired elements to the users' selfies, including dreadlocks and a crochet slouch cap, as well as morphing of facial features and darkening of the skin tone. Upon its release, the filter was immediately met with backlash on social media from many users who felt the special effect was, more or less, a form of digital blackfacing.
- In May 2016, Snapchat's "beautifying" Lens filters drew criticism on social media for their skin brightening effect, with many users complaining that the filters promote whiter skin tone as an ideal of beauty.
- In August 2016, Snapchat released a new anime-inspired Lens filter that morphs the user's face into a cartoon caricature of an Asian person by adding slanted eyes, buck teeth and puffy cheeks to the selfie. Similar to the backlash surrounding the Bob Marley filter, many users complained that the filter essentially promotes "yellow face" and other racist stereotypes of Asian people. Within 24 hours of the filter's release, it was subsequently removed from the app.
In early November of 2017, a rumor that Snapchat would be shutting down on November 14th, 2017 began circulating online. The story was created on channel45news.com, a generator website which allows users to create fake news stories to share on social media. The article is short and reads:
"The CEO Evan Spiegel of the very popular app Snapchat has released that Snapchat will be removed from all app stores by November 14,2017. According to Fox News Media Evan has decided to make this decision due to copyright and legal issues with Facebook, Instagram, and Musical.ly. By the date November 14,2017 all Snapchat apps with be removed from all devices and all app stores. DISCLAIMER all data and media associated with the app will also be deleted within the app."
The story was amplified when Snapchat had a temporary shutdown on November 6th. On the same day, Snopes had a piece debunking the rumor. The story was covered by Select All, Daily Dot, and more.
Kylie Jenner Tweet & Stock Market Loss
On February 21, 2018, Kylie Jenner stated on her Twitter that she no longer uses Snapchat. After her tweet, Snap, Inc. lost approximately 6-8% in stock, costing around $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion dollars. The earliest news article stating the connection between her tweet and Snap's loss was by RTT News. Numerous news sites such as Bloomberg, CNBC, and Barron's also covered this story later on.
sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) February 21, 2018
On August 2nd, 2018, doctors Susruthi Rajanala, Mayra B. C. Maymone, and Neelam A. Vashi, released an academic paper on the topic of patients who undergo plastic surgery in an effort to appear more like how they look when they use a filter on a photo app such as Instagram or Snapchat, dubbing the desire "Snapchat Dysmorphia." The same day, Inverse published an article on the paper, noting that 55% of plastic surgery cases said they wanted surgery so they could "look better in their selfies." Ph.D candidate Kaylee Kruzan noted:
“Snapchat and Instagram certainly have the potential to affect the way people view their own bodies. Social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook constrain users to see their bodies from a third person or observer’s perspective. This can lead to body objectification, which we know is linked to poor mental health and well-being.”
The Inverse article soon led to national coverage, with multiple media outlets covering the phenomenon of Snapchat dysmorphia, including Select All, Washington Post, Forbes, and others.
In May of 2012, Snapchat was processing 25 images every second. In October of that year, Snapchat was ranked #19 on the free apps chart and users were sharing over 20 million snaps every day. On November 27th, Forbes published an article about Snapchat, calling it "the biggest no-revenue mobile app since Instagram."
 Tech Crunch – Billion Snapchats
 Tech Crunch – Snapchat not sexting
 New York Times – Indiscreet Photos
 Gawker – Snapchat Sluts Via Archive.org
 Tumblr – Cute Snapchat Sluts
 Mashable – Snapchat HS
 Mashable – Snapchat CEO
 LA Times – South Carolina man sues Snapchat
 Cavalier Daily – Personal prank panics student body
 TechCrunch – Snapchat Founders Face New Twist In Legal Battle As Alleged Co-Founder Files To Disqualify Their Lawyers
 TechCrunch – Snapchats Spiegel Admits Brown Came Up With The Idea For Disappearing Picture Messages
 Valley Wag – Snapchat Had the Frattiest Creation in Startup History
 Business Insider – Snapchats investors are being sued
 channel45news – Snapchat will be shutting down by the end of 2017
 Techcrunch – Snapchat isn’t working and users are freaking out
 Snopes – Is Snapchat Shutting Down by the End of 2017?
 Select All – No, Snapchat Is Not Shutting Down Next Week
 Daily Dot – Don’t believe the hoax: Snapchat isn’t shutting down
 RTTNews Snap Inc. (SNAP) Is Losing Ground After Kylie Jenner Tweet
 Bloomberg.com – Kylie Jenner Tanks $1.3 Billion of Snapchat Parent's Market Value
 CNBC Kylie Jenner just wiped $1.7B off Snap’s market cap, and the worst isn’t over for the stock
 Barron's – Snap’s Kardashian Problem
 JAMA Network – Selfies--Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs
 Inverse – Plastic Surgeons Are Really Worried About 'Snapchat Dysmorphia'
 Select All – Doctors Warn About ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’
 Forbes – What Is Snapchat Dysmorphia And How It May Lead To More Plastic Surgery
 Washington Post – Patients are desperate to resemble their doctored selfies. Plastic surgeons alarmed by ‘Snapchat dysmorphia.’
 Twitter – @Snapchat's Tweet
 TechCrunch – Snapchat now has cat lenses.
Aug 12, 2016 at 02:55PM EDT
Aug 12, 2016 at 02:48PM EDT
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