Snapchat launched on September 16, 2011. Since kick-starting the mobile-first era for social networks, it’s established itself as one of the world’s most popular photo-sharing and instant messaging apps.
Although seven years younger than Facebook, the two apps have some interesting parallels. Facebook began in the halls of Harvard and Snapchat started life in the study areas of Stanford.
In his first blog post for the company, co-founder Evan Spiegel explained the app’s origins. When he and fellow student Bobby Murphy first looked at mobile photo-sharing in April 2011, they noticed that apps were focused on enhancing images and not sharing. Over the summer, they developed an app that put sharing front and center under the name of Picaboo. It wasn’t until they changed its name to Snapchat that it began to catch on. By the end of 2012, the app had hit one million daily users. As of spring 2021, it was supporting nearly 530 million.
The comparison with Facebook doesn’t stop with the app’s university beginnings. They both encountered similar ownership disputes too. The disappearing images Snapchat’s famous for and its familiar ghost logo were both the idea of Reggie Brown, a fellow Stanford student. He helped Spiegel and Murphy develop the app in the summer of 2011. A disagreement over ownership led Spiegel and Murphy to lock Brown out of the app before launch. The pair would later settle with Brown for $158 million after a lawsuit.
Facebook tried to beat Snapchat at its own game when it launched Poke in 2012, although that closed less than two years later. Having seen off that challenge and overcome a data breach that saw 4 million accounts compromised, Snapchat’s founders turned down a $3 billion buyout from Facebook in 2013.
Snapchat remains most famous for its disappearing photos, just one area where the app has combined controversy with innovation. The app pioneered its Stories feature in 2013, which has now been duplicated as far as Instagram and LinkedIn. Other features haven’t proved so successful. The app removed its photo speed filter in summer 2021 after it was linked to multiple automobile accidents.
Mark Zuckerberg’s recent launch of Meta, targeting a new age of social connection, isn’t alone in the augmented reality space. In 2020, around 75% of Snapchat users used its AR lenses every day.
Who owns Snapchat?
Snapchat is just one technology owned and maintained by Snap Inc., which rebranded from Snapchat Inc. in 2016 to reflect its broader portfolio. Snap Inc. also owns Spectacles and Bitmoji.
On March 2, 2017, Snap Inc. started trading on the New York Stock Exchange when the market was eager for new technology Initial Public Offerings. At the end of its first day, shares closed 44 percent up. In 2020, the company reported revenue of $2.506 billion, and Snapchat’s market capitalization currently stands at $88.764 billion.
The company employs just under 4,000 employees and is based in Santa Monica, California. But despite its massive growth in the past decade, its ownership has remained stable. Snapchat’s Co-founders have been careful to retain control of their company. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy retain the majority share of Snap Inc, with a combined voting power of 95.8%.