Apps

People Keep Trying to Annihilate Snapchat’s Ephemerality. Users Shrug


People Keep Trying to Annihilate Snapchat’s Ephemerality. Users Shrug

Photograph by Jen Fong

Snapchat, aka the people’s champ of smartphone peep shows, is once again on the business end of yet another commercial subversion.

Over the weekend, a developer named Darren Jones launched an iOS app called SnapHack. For 99¢ the app allows users to save, store, and reopen Snapchat messages they’ve received from friends—enabling them to bypass the self-destroying function that’s at the heart of Snapchat’s popularity.

In other words, if you send a Snapchat to a friend who has SnapHack, there’s an easy way for him to preserve the message for all of eternity. All he has to do is open it in SnapHack, and the message won’t rapidly expire as you’d originally intended.

Sound familiar? It should.

This is hardly the first time the photo messaging app’s ephemerality has come under assault. Since the dawn of Snapchat, various groups have been devising and publishing endless alterations and permutations and reconfigurations on how to preserve and restore the self-destructing messages without the sender knowing.

See here, here, and here.

In May, a computer forensics company in Utah announced that it had figured out how to retrieve previously expired Snapchat photos from a smartphone—and would do so for a fee starting at $300. In August, an iOS app called Snap Save arrived on the scene, selling users a quick and easy way to save Snapchat messages without alerting the sender.

The arrival of each of these expiration-diffusing innovations has typically been met with a mixture of titillation (The nation’s sexy selfies are no longer safe!); consternation (Think twice before sending those sexy selfies!); admonishment (You’re naive to send those sexy selfies, because nothing ever disappears on the Internet!); and speculation (Is this the death of sexy selfies?).

Yet through it all, Snapchat continues to grow. Instead of inspiring mass panic, each new series of Snapchat end runs seem to inspire little more than a shrug from users. Why ephemeral messaging is proving to be so resilient in the face of such resistance will no doubt be chewed over for years to come by social media‑focused sociologists.

In the meantime, the app’s creators seem to have adopted a fairly nonchalant attitude about the Snapchat preservationists and the constant commercial undermining.

“While an unopened snap is being stored on the device, it’s not impossible to circumvent the Snapchat app and access the files directly,” Team Snapchat wrote on the company’s blog this past spring. “This isn’t something we support or encourage, and in most cases it would involve jailbreaking or ‘rooting’ the phone and voiding its warranty.”

“Also, if you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted,’ they added. “So … you know … keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies :).”

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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