Snapchat, which has just been made available for Android devices (it's been on iPhone for a year), is an app that lets people put an expiry date on the photos they share with friends on their mobile devices.
As of October 28, they were celebrating "over 1 billion snaps" shared worldwide. Users set who can see their pics, and how long they can see them for before they are deleted from the snapchat server. If the recipient takes a screenshot, the sender is notified — but cannot erase it.
The main product benefit advertised is speed: "real time picture chatting" that goes faster than e-mails or other messaging (since the picture lives on an external server).
At the Apple Store, the app has the following disclaimer:
Rated 12+ for the following:Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive ThemesInfrequent/Mild Sexual Content or NudityInfrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude HumorInfrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or ReferencesIn other words, they just expect — even sanction — that users are doing all the unfortunate things they do with their camera phones now. But does making sexting seem safer actually encourage it?
That might not be fair. I imagine the encouragement will come from horny jerks on the other end of the line, who will use the "temporary" nature of the picture as a reason for oversharing.
But snapchat has this warning for its customers:
When you send or receive messages using the Snapchat services, we temporarily process and store your images in order to provide our services. Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. For example, users may take a picture of the message contents with another imaging device or capture a screenshot of the message contents on the device screen. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.As Buzzfeed's Katie Heaney concludes:
The app's message, then, is a mixed one: We don't guarantee security, and we can't imagine you using this for anything unseemly. But here are some tools to make sexting easier. Not that we think you're sexting. It's the app equivalent of a head shop.