History of Snapchat

Snapchat was initially conceived by former Stanford University students Bobby Murphy, Reggie Brown, and Evan Spiegel.

The characteristic feature of Snapchat where pictures and messages are only available for a short time was the brainchild of Brown, who approached Spiegel with his idea because he had more business experience.

Today, the Snapchat app has more of a focus on chronological user stories and short-form content where businesses can promote their brands.

The app’s mostly younger audience of 332 million users sends around 4 billion so-called “snaps” every day with 101 different product features so far developed.

To see how Snapchat arrived at this point and managed to carve out a niche in the crowded social media space, let’s take a general look at the early days of the company.

Development at Stanford University 

As we touched on above, Snapchat was developed while Murphy, Brown, and Spiegel were students at Stanford University.

The story goes that Brown came up with the idea for a social media platform where users could post videos and photos that were erased a few moments after they were viewed.

Brown then got Spiegel involved and also Murphy who was tasked with writing the code for the app.

After working for a few months, an app known as Picaboo was launched in the App Store on July 8, 2011.

During this time, Brown created the company mascot known as “Ghostface Chillah” which still serves as Snapchat’s logo today.

Departure of Brown

Soon after Snapchat was launched, Brown was ousted from the company for reasons which remain a mystery.

However, court documents reveal the three co-founders had a “contentious phone conversation” which resulted in Spiegel and Murphy changing the passwords for Snapchat’s accounts and servers.

Brown later sued the pair for breach of contract and settled for a total of $157.5 million split over two payments in 2014 and 2016. As part of the settlement, Snapchat released a statement attributing the idea for the company to Brown.

Introductory blog post

Spiegel then made an introductory blog post on the Snapchat website espousing a new way of sharing information that one wanted to see disappear. 

While the post is somewhat ironically no longer available, Spiegel described the app in terms of moments we can all relate to:

Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion – not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. Like when I think I’m good at imitating the face of a star-nosed mole, or if I want to show my friend the girl I have a crush on (it would be awkward if that got around), and when I’m away at college and miss my Mom…er…my friends.

The idea of social media activity that would not come back to haunt users appealed to the younger generation in particular.

Video is added

Video was added to Snapchat around a year after it was launched which coincided with the app’s release in the Google Play store.

While only ten seconds in length, videos helped propel the platform to around 50 million daily snaps. 

The following year, developers added the “Stories” and “Chat” features with the former enabling users to post a sequence of snaps available for a maximum of 24 hours.

By 2015, there were 75 million active monthly users and advertising became an increasingly lucrative source of income.

In early 2017, Snapchat held an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange and achieved a valuation of $33 billion.

Key takeaways:

  • Snapchat was initially conceived by former Stanford University students Bobby Murphy, Reggie Brown, and Evan Spiegel. Brown departed the company soon after the app was launched in 2011 for reasons that remain unclear.
  • In an introductory blog post, Spiegel described the app in terms of moments that occur online that we’d rather not have preserved for posterity. This premise proved to be a hit with younger social media users.
  • When video functionality was added at around the same time as the app became available for Android, Snapchat quickly reached 50 million daily snaps. Additional features and a 2017 IPO followed.

Read Next: Snapchat Business Model

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