You've probably heard about Snapchat. It's the popular mobile app that allows you to send videos and pictures, both of which will self destruct after a few seconds of a person viewing them.
Snapchat is also a fun messaging app. You can take a photo or a video with it, then add a caption or doodle or lens graphic over top, and send it to a friend. Alternatively, you can add it to your "story", a 24-hour collection of your photos and videos, which you broadcast to the world or just your followers.
Those things are part of the various features within Snapchat. At its core, Snapchat is used to send photos and videos - called snaps - to friends. Your friends can view snaps for up to 10 seconds, and then they disappear. While that's all fine and dandy, many people are still left stumped by Snapchat.
They can't seem to understand why someone would actually want to send brief pictures or videos to friends, especially if they can't be saved. Well, they can be "saved", because Snapchat has more to offer than what meets the eye.
If you'd like to learn all about Snapchat and how it works, keep reading.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a photo- and video-messaging app. It launched in 2011.
Snapchat is unique in that all photos and videos only last a brief amount of time before they disappear forever, making the app ephemeral in nature, though you can take a screenshot of snaps to save them in picture form. As of May 2014, the app's users were sending 700 million snaps a day.
Due to the instant popularity of Snapchat, Facebook reportedly offered to acquire Snapchat for $3 billion. One of the app's cofounders declined the cash offer however. Facebook later launched a similar app (Slingshot), which failed.
Who uses Snapchat?
Everyone uses Snapchat. But it is directed toward teens and adults.
Snapchat is mostly a hit among teenagers, according to several research firms, though it is catching on and embracing new demographics every day. Viners (personalities who use the Vine app), for instance, are known to use Snapchat's story feature as an alternative means of communicating with fans.
What's the point of Snapchat?
We could give a long explanation to describe how social media and apps are evolving in order to match the current trends and interests of active users around the world, but we'll just share the above video instead.
(It's made by Casey Neistat, a popular YouTube personality.)
The video not only gives a humorous and brief overview of Snapchat, but it also provides an interesting take or look at why Snapchat is so popular at this moment in time, especially among teenagers.
What's all the lingo mean?
Here are some of the common terms and phrases used in the Snapchat world:
Snapchatters: Snapchat users
Snaps: Photos or videos taken via Snapchat (you can send a snap to a snapchatter, but it can only be viewed by the recipient for one to 10 seconds before it disappears forever)
Snapback: A reply to a snap
Story: A snap you can broadcast to followers (recipients can view it an unlimited amount of times in 24 hours, and you can also post multiple snaps to your story in one day to create a narrative of sorts)
Scores: The total number of snaps you have sent and received (appears next to your name in friends' contact lists and vice versa)
Chat: A feature that lets you privately/directly message friends
Here: A feature that lets you start a live video chat within a direct message
How does Snapchat work?
We'll be the first to admit that Snapchat is so simple it's almost confusing.
The app's main screen is your camera view, and that can be initially a little jarring or weird to navigate around. Try to remain calm however and keep reading to learn exactly how Snapchat works. By the time you're done our mini tutorial, you'll be snapping like a 14 year old.
First thing's first: Download Snapchat (it's free) and create an account and user ID. Once that's done, the app will always open and show the camera view straightaway. The camera view serves as the main screen.
The top left-hand corner has a flash icon for toggling your camera's flash, while the top-right corner has a camera button for toggling the camera between front- and rear-facing mode. The center area is your camera view.
On the bottom of the camera view there is a big round camera button in the center for taking photos and videos (aka snaps). Hold the camera button down to record a video with sound, or tap the camera button to take a picture.
The bottom left-hand corner of the main screen has a square icon that will display in numbers how many unread snaps are waiting for you. Tap it or swipe from left to read your snaps, directly message friends, or search.
The bottom right corner will show a three-line icon (or "+" if you have stories from followers available). You can tap it or swipe from right when you want to view stories or discover content from publishers like ESPN, Food Network, etc.
Swipe down while on the main screen to add contacts, or tap the Snapchat logo at the top. Your contacts screen should then open. It'll show a gear icon in the top right for accessing settings, but the contacts screen primarily lets you view who has added you, find friends to add, and browse all friends.
You'll also see your Snapchat score next to your name beneath the Snapchat logo. Speaking of this logo, tap it to add a custom favicon/selfie that'll appear next to your name.
If you want skip all that, swipe from the bottom and exit the contact screen.
While on the main screen, tap the large camera button to take a snap, or hold down to record a video. Once you've finished, a preview screen will appear with options for customising, adjusting length, sending the snap, and more.
The preview screen has an X icon in the top left-hand corner. Tap that icon to return to the main screen. If you tap the customisation icon, which looks like a pencil, in the top right-hand corner, you will get a colour slider.
Simply use your finger to select a colour and start tracing or drawing whatever you want on the snap displayed in the preview screen. You can also tap anywhere on the preview screen to access a keyboard and add text (but only after you tap-to-close the colour slider). It's pretty simple, actually.
You can also slide from left or right on the preview screen to add various filters based on your location, the current time, the current temperature, the speed you may be traveling at, and more. There's also ones that just change the colour and look of your snap. Simply swipe around until you find one you like.
When everything is ready to go, you will see a snap length icon in the bottom left of your screen. It should be a circle with a number in it. The number represents how many seconds the recipient will have to view your snap. Tap this icon to adjust length time from 1 second to 10 seconds.
Next to the snap length icon is a universal download icon. If you select it, your snap will download to your device. The next icon at the bottom of the camera view is for stories, but we'll address that in a bit.
The only icon on the preview screen that we haven't discussed yet is the arrow-shaped icon on the bottom right. Tap it to send your snap to a friend. A send-to screen should open. You will then need to select recipients. Once done, send your snap by tapping the second arrow icon that appears.
You might have noticed that one of the recipient options listed on the send-to screen said "My Story". This option will add your snap to your story, but again, we will discuss that in detail below.
To view your unread snaps, go to the main menu screen and select the square/numbered icon on the bottom left. A feed of all your sent snaps and snap replies (aka snapbacks) will be listed, including any new snaps from friends. Just tap any one to view it for a limited amount of time. Remember: Snaps disappear.
So, be ready to take a screenshot, if you want (though the recipient will be notified if you take a screenshot). You also get one free daily replay to view it again If you’ve already used your one free daily Replay, you can purchase additional replays by pressing and hold on a snap you just viewed. You must use your replay immediately.
Beyond all that, this feed/recently-viewed screen will display all your sent snaps. For instance, an arrow icon will appear next to a snap you've sent if it's been read, along with a notice about whether the recipient took a screenshot or replayed of your snap. If your friend replays your snap, you will see a replay icon next to their name.
From this screen you can search for snaps, return to the camera, etc.
To send a story, which is basically a snap that exists for 24 hours and can broadcast to all your followers, tap the story icon from the preview screen. It's right next to the download icon. If you send a story, your followers will be able to view it an unlimited number of times in one day. You will see who has viewed your story too.
Another way to send a story is by simply taking a snap and tapping the send icon. But instead of selecting every friend individually on the send-to screen, you can simply select the My Story option.
You can change who is able to view your stories under settings.
You can view stories by tapping the three-line icon on the camera screen.
You will then see a Stories screen, with a list of your contacts and maybe even recents if you have unread stories. Once you view all the stories under recents, the recents category will disappear. You can still find read stories however by scrolling to the bottom of your contact list on this screen.
Anybody with a little cartoon symbol next to their name is an official, verified person on Snapchat. Actor Jared Leto (jaredleto), for instance, has a cactus next to his name. DJ Calvin Harris has a tiger, and so forth. Go here to learn more about how verified accounts on Snapchat work.
From this screen you can also view Snapchat content and original programming via the Discover section at the top. Just tap on any of the the publishers, such as Comedy Central, to launch their channel and a stream of content they've chosen to broadcast exclusively via Snapchat.
Scores are the sum of sent and received chats.
To view your score, swipe down from the camera screen. Your score will appear next to your name under the Snapchat logo. You can view friends' total scores by tapping on their name in your contacts.
Chatting with friends
Apart from sending snaps and stories, you can message with a friend.
To access the chat feature, swipe from left on the camera screen. To message a friend, go to your contact list, then tap on the friend's name, and select the chat icon. If you've already started messaging someone, they're name will appear in your recent's list on the chat screen. Swipe from left on their name to start chatting again.
In the message pane, tap the yellow camera on the right of the text box to take a snap and send it to the friend. You could even select an image to send from your device's photo gallery from the preview screen that'll appear.
Remember: you can live video chat with friends while in chat by using a sub-feature is called Here.
Simply press the blue camera button on the right in any message thread to access Here. (The camera button will turn from yellow to blue when your friend is available to video chat). Make sure to press and hold the blue camera in order to immediately broadcast live video and audio of yourself to your friend.
Video chat works when your camera is facing toward you or even away. You can also lock the feature so that you don't have to hold your thumb on your screen during the entire broadcast.
Snapchat partnered with Square to launch Snapcash in 2014.
It lets you use your debit card to pay for goods or simply send money to friends. It orks like this: enter your debit card under settings, then go to any message with a friend, and type a dollar sign along with an amount (like $11.50). Once you're done, hit the green money button (it used to be the yellow camera button).
Your card details are securely stored by Square, a mobile payments company co-founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey. So you don't need to worry about a Snappening-type hacking scandal that will result in you losing money. Snapcash via Square is available to all snapchatters in the US with a debit card. They just have to be 18 years or older.
When you’re using the camera screen to take a selfie, you can press and hold on your face to activate a new feature called Lenses. It includes facial recognition software that’s able to distort your expression and apply various effects to your face. Once you active it, a spiderweb-thing covers your face.
You'll then see seven options appear next to the shutter icon. Select one and follow the on-screen instructions. Also, you can swipe to the left to change the lens. You can even buy lenses. Go here to learn more about that.
Snapchat added a Replay feature under Additional Services in settings almost two years ago, allowing you to briefly relive snaps one more time.
You're provided one replay per snapchatter per day, but now US users can purchase extra replays starting at three for $0.99. You can use a replay on any snap you receive, but you can only replay any snap once.
What is Discover?
Snapchat Discover is a new way to find stories from specific editorial teams. To get to Discover, swipe from left on the camera screen, and then tap the new Discover icon (circle icon) in the top-right corner.
You will see a grid of all the available "editorial teams", including Snapchat's own snap channel, CNN, Cosmo, Daily Mail, People, etc. Tap on one to open an edition, then swipe left to browse snaps, and swipe up on a snap for more.
Every edition is refreshed daily, thus maintaining the whole ephemeral vibe.
Is Snapchat getting into original programming?
Yes. Snapchat is now making original series content for its app.
Sasha Spielberg, daughter of film director and producer Steven Spielberg, and Goldwyn, daughter of film producer John Goldwyn, are actually the co-creators and writers of Snapchat's first original series, called Literally Can’t Even.
They also star in the series as "comedic versions of themselves" in Los Angeles. Each episode of Literally Can't Even will run under 5-minutes long. The show premiered on 31 January through Snapchat's new snap Channel.
New episodes debuted every Saturday, and again, you only had 24 hours to watch them. The series also featured a unique split screen which included scene details for each shot.