Alright, so I’ve got this theory.
It’s just that — a theory — a bunch of semi-educated guesses, really. But I really hope that I’m right, because I’d love to see it happen.
TL;DR: I think Snapchat is going to bring back the AIM Away Message. Not exactly as it was, of course, but in a modern, updated, and more relevant form.
I tweeted about this the other day, but thought that the idea deserved more than 140-characters.
Here’s why I think this is going to happen.
"What is Snapchat?"
The WSJ wrote an entire article about this, a fact which could probably be the subject of an entire blog post of its own, but I digress. According to a Snapchat spokesperson, Evan likes “living in the present.” This is kind of out left field, but it also vibes with a video Snapchat posted on YouTube the other day called “What is Snapchat?”
The video was low-quality, uploaded in only 144p and 240p. This is odd considering that Spiegel had an iPhone 6 on the table — a phone that can take video in glorious 1080p HD, no sweat. The video felt awkwardly forced. Just watch it. If you ask me, this kind of thing is totally not Snapchat’s style.
In the video, Evan gets philosophical and talks about how time affects the way that we understand our identities. “Instant expression says my identity is who I am right now,” he says. If you’ve used Snapchat, you know this is how Snapchat treats identity: by communicating with pictures, you are literally sharing a moment with the people you send that snap to. This plays right into Snapchat's notorious and long-standing “ephemerality” aspect.
Right around the time the video was posted, Spiegel went ahead and deleted all of his tweets. Except there’s one left — a tweet that he didn’t even post. Back in February, some seemingly random girl(?) posted a tweet about Snapchat’s then-new button to switch between front and back cameras.
The “theory” part
So Mashable already sorta alluded to what I think is going to happen. But here goes anyway.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Spiegel starts a trend of having just one tweet on his profile. He’d post a new tweet and manually delete the preceding one. This is functionally the same thing as the classic AIM away message (although you didn’t have to manually delete old away statuses, they just went away on their own).
Eventually, I think this will lead way to a new Snapchat feature that I'd call the Snapstatus. Here's a couple ways it could work:
- You post one status at a time, expressing how you feel in that moment.
- You RT things you like (like a Snapchat user calling a new feature “cute as fuck”).
- Optionally, throw in hearts / favs / likes. That said, the absence of anything like this has worked pretty well for Snapchat thus far.
- Some sort of comment / reply system that's public, private, or both.
Point is, this could solve a problem that I know has plagued me personally for a long, long time.
My (admittedly minor) problem with Twitter
I love Twitter. I spend a lot of time on it, I find a lot of cool stuff on it, I read a lot of stuff about it, I fav a lot of tweets. (Shameless #personalbrand promotion: if you don't already, follow me @tylergold)
But I’m not nearly as prolific on the service as I used to be. Something changed in the way I think about tweeting. It became intimidating, almost. Not because I’m worried about people disliking the things I post, but because of an eerily similar reason to what Spiegel was talking about in that YouTube video. Sometimes I feel a certain way about a certain thing and post a tweet about it. But I’ll come back an hour, two hours, a day later, look at that tweet, and say to myself “what was I thinking?”
The best part about Twitter is using it in the moment. When you go to post a new tweet, Twitter doesn’t ask “What’s on your mind?” like Facebook does. It asks “What’s happening?” Chris Sacca, a well known investor in Twitter, recently wrote a 8,500 word essay explaining this very concept.
Why Snapchat might be able to beat Twitter
Twitter is really good at being in the moment. Whenever a thing (current events, a sports game or other big TV event, etc.) happens, I check Twitter to find out what's going on. But as good as Twitter is at this, Snapchat is better at sharing moments; the entire medium is dedicated to that philosophy. It was the topic of that entire weird-ass video. Watching a Snapchat Story — especially one of the crowd-sourced "Our Stories" that are attached to certain big events like award shows, or that you can access in big cities like NYC or LA — is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. You really feel like you're there, experiencing whatever is happening with whoever is there.
This is partially because Stories let you share events as they happened in chronological order from beginning, to middle, to end. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all use reverse-chronological feeds that show the most recent item first.
This is also partially because Snapchat only works with photos or videos. There is a texting feature, but for the record, my 14-year old sister confirms that none of her #teen friends really use it.
One of my favorite affordances offered by Snapchat stories is being able to find out what my friends are up to at a given time. I go to the Stories tab, look at the top, and I know that whatever was posted there just happened. If I haven’t been keeping up with someone I care about throughout the day but they've been posting to their Story, I know I can catch up with them, find out what’s going on, and then if we want we can make plans from there and skip the whole "omg you're in the city too no way!" game you always end up playing.
If Snapchat had an option to post a single status in the same style as AIM’s away messages of old: “going to the corner store, brb” or “who’s going out drinking tonight?!” or “omg I can’t believe they killed [REDACTED] on Thrones last night” I would use the shit out of it — and I'd venture to guess lots of other people would too.
The best part about Snapchat is that you rarely feel afraid to send a snap. The Snapstatus, if it comes to fruition, would feel the same way. Maybe these posts would self-destruct after 24-hours like Stories do. Maybe you could set them to last longer, like Spiegel is doing with that lone RT he has up on his Twitter profile. There's a lot of room for nuance here. Snapchat is bigger than ever, has more momentum than any other social network, and Twitter is weaker than its been in a long time.
If Snapchat ever wants to create a feature like this, they better do it soon. If it's done right, it could be huge.
There's a lot left to talk about here
I have so many more thoughts about this, but for the sake of time I'm just sharing this the way it is.
- One avenue I'm interested in exploring is a new app called Free, which is already doing something really similar to what I outlined above. I think it could be the Meerkat to the Periscope that Snapchat could create, if Snapchat does end up making this thing.
- This also relates to an idea that Chris Ziegler came up with a few years ago, which he called the Universal Status Indicator.
Update: 24 June 2015
I don't want this to become a game of "what did Speigel do on his Twitter omg" — but alas, he removed the RT discussed / embedded above. Wonder what that means.
- Maybe the low quality thing was Spiegel’s form of protest. “Fine, I’ll tell you olds what Snapchat is, but you’re sure as hell not gonna see my artfully sketched diagrams in HD!” ↩
- This is entirely anecdotal, but I rarely use this with my friends — and I think I’m a pretty prolific Snapchat user. We primarily use Snaptext just to say “lol” at a snap. ↩