As rumors continue to swirl about a possible $8 million round of funding for the popular and controversial photo sharing application, Snapchat is introducing its mobile social network to a new medium: Video.
The Los Angeles-based start-up’s mobile app, which allows users to send pictures that disappear in a matter of seconds, has exploded in popularity and notoriety in recent months. The company’s 22-year-old chief executive, Evan Spiegel, said in a company blog post Friday that some 50 million photos are now shared over the network every day.
The company is now bringing the concept of temporary, time-sensitive image sharing to video, allowing users to record and send videos up to ten seconds long. The videos are deleted after a single viewing. Describing the new feature in his blog post, Spiegel said that it came out of a common frustration with the separation between a mobile device’s photography and video features.
“Snapchat is all about sharing moments as they happen, and video is a great way to capture those moments,” Spiegel wrote. “Unfortunately, with most camera applications, by the time you’ve switched from your still camera to your video camera and are ready to go, you’ve already missed the moment. It’s really frustrating. So we built something different -- and we think it makes a lot more sense.”
“Instead of toggling back and forth between a photo and a video setting, we’ve combined them into one button,” he continued. “If you want to take a photo, just tap the button. If you want to capture video, hold the button down. When you’re done recording, lift your finger. Super simple.”
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Spiegel didn’t go into much detail about how the technology in the new video feature works, but he said that the nature of the application’s network connectivity made it possible to compress video data to the same size as static images.
The update also introduced a new “friending” feature that requires users to approve each other before exchanging photos. Spiegel told TechCrunch that the idea for friending came from the common annoyance of early adopters (like himself) of receiving countless messages from completely random users.
But the new barrier to unfettered access and use of other users’ images could just as well be an indirect response to the many charges the service has faced for being little more than a “sexting app,” a controversy that rose to a fever pitch earlier this week when a particularly adventurous Tumblr user set up a “Snapchat Sluts” page to curate some of the service’s explicit content, proving that much of Snapchat’s alleged impermanence is ripe for exploitation.
When asked to comment on the Tumblr page, Spiegel told Forbes, “At 50 million snaps a day, there are bound to be a few that make people uncomfortable. I think we just do the best we can to make users aware of the risks.”