It’s the latest social media phenomenon and has just been valued at $800m. But how long will Snapchat last?

Photo-sharing app allows users to send images which ‘self-destruct’ within 10 seconds

It was hatched as a Stanford University design project barely two years ago. But now Snapchat, the photo-sharing app which allows users to send images which “self-destruct” within ten seconds, is taking a bite out of Facebook after its valuation soared to $800 million (£517 million).

The service offered by Evan Spiegel, 22 and Bobby Murphy, 24, the latest darlings of the start-up social media sector, is intentionally fleeting.

Smartphone users send photos or video clips to friends which disappear within ten seconds or less after being viewed, and are supposedly then deleted from servers.

Launched in 2011, teenagers immediately embraced the app as a fun new way to communicate, without leaving a trail of personal information. More than 200 million images are “snapped” globally each day, up from 60 million in February.

The app’s “hyper-growth” rate has been compared to the early days of Twitter and Instagram, with users moving beyond the temptation to send sexually explicit images to carefully selected targets.

Whilst Snapchat deals in the ephemeral, the entrepreneurs behind the app are attracting heavyweight backing, despite the start-up having yet to demonstrate a profitable business plan.

Snapchat has raised $60m in its latest round of funding from Institutional Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners and SV Angel. Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Corp US and Sony Pictures Entertainment, will join its board.

With $13.5m of venture capital backing previously secured in February, analysts said Snapchat was now valued at around $800 million, up from $60 million (£39 million) earlier this year.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, is among Snapchat’s millions of users. But when Facebook launched a rival disappearing photo-messaging service, Poke, it failed to make a dent in Snapchat, which increased its market share.

Snapchat now has a higher valuation than the $715 million which Facebook paid in cash and stock to acquire the image-sharing service Instagram, which is used to transmit 40 million pictures a day.

Spiegel and Murphy, Stanford “frat boys”, developed Snapchat in response to a series of US scandals over politicians caught “sexting”. “What if embarrassing photos could instantly expire once viewed?”, they asked.

Fellow students weren’t impressed with the model the pair presented in a design class so Spiegel quit school two years ago and worked on the app from the dining room of his father’s house in Los Angeles.

Rejecting Silicon Valley as a base, the pair located Snapchat, which currently employs 17 staff, in a beach house on Venice Beach, its premises marked by a yellow cartoon ghost on the door.

Just as Facebook’s contested origins became the subject of a film, The Social Network, Snapchat’s founders now face a legal battle.

In February, former classmate Frank Reginald Brown IV filed a lawsuit against Snapchat and its co-founders, alleging that he came up with the idea and worked on the app but was frozen out after falling out with his friends. The company has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Snapchat now needs to monetise its operation, through in-app purchases and mobile advertising.

Spiegel, who still lives at home with his father, an entertainment lawyer, said: “We’ve been able to support the growth of Snapchat with minimal overhead. But in order to continue scaling while developing the Snapchat experience, we needed to build a bigger engineering team and figure out how to pay our server bills.”

Snapchat is worth its $800 million valuation, argued Dennis Phelps, general partner at Institutional Venture Partners. “Snapchat is clearly a huge success, and we wouldn’t have invested unless we believed that it will become a much larger one,” he said.

Spiegel has hired the best engineers in the country and aspires to make Snapchat a “multi-billion dollar venture-backed success”, Phelps said.

Snapchat would outgrow its teen audience, Phelps predicted. “Facebook spread like wildfire across college campuses long before it gained acceptance with soccer moms,” he said.

Snapchat was unique because it offered a “sense of excitement and an urgency of consumption that is rare in this era of information overload,” argued Phelps.

Privacy campaigners have warned that images sent through Snapchat may have more permanence than their senders intended. Screen shots can be taken of any image sent through the app, and senders are notified when a recipient does so. The company acknowledged that material deleted from its servers could be recovered “using the right forensic tools”.

MTV is using Snapchat to send “cheeky” pictures from the new series of reality show Geordie Shore directly to fans’ smartphones, in a marketing tie-in.

Snapchat claims that lewd images form a very small amount of the material shared through the app.

Facebook

Eight years and 900 million users after Mark Zuckerberg and Harvard buddies created social network, Facebook went public in 2012 with $104bn (£66bn). Bungled offering saw stock lose half of its value three months later.

Zynga

Farmville social gaming platform founded by Mark Pincus earning $829 million in sales hit peak valuation of $12 billion and went public in 2011. Market capitalisation slumped to $2 billion after customer move away from Facebook games and disastrous $200 million purchase of OMGPOP gaming company.

Twitter

Micro-blogging service founded by NYU student Jack Dorsey in 2006 now has more than 550 million users and projected to earn $400 million in advertising revenue. Expected to launch IPO next year with valuation at $11 billion.

Pinterest

“Virtual pinboard” website that allows people to group images in themes launched in 2010 now has 50 million users and valuation of $2.5 billion after $100 million investment round. Co-founded by former Google employee Ben Silbermann.

Instagram

Created by San Francisco developers Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October 2010, photo and video sharing service was adopted by celebrities and purchased by Facebook in 2012 for $715 million in cash and stock. Currently has 130 million users.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Derivatives Risk Commodities Business Analyst /Market Risk

    £600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...

    Power & Gas Business Analyst / Subject Matter Expert - Contract

    £600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...

    Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

    £600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

    SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering