Image courtesy: Snapchat
Image courtesy: Snapchat
Opinion

The business of Poking, Snapchatting & Sexting

By Sorab Ghaswalla

Mumbai, December 29, 2012

Yet another war has broken out in cyberspace. The warring sides, this time, are photo sharing applications, Snapchat and Poke. Never heard of them? Then, before getting into the meat of things, allow me to give you a brief introduction.

Both, Snapchat and Poke are almost similar photo apps. Poke is a born-again avatar of a previous feature of Facebook, while Snapchat is a brand new, California, USA-based, Android & iOS device app. 
What makes both of them "unique" is what they claim to deliver – messages, images, videos – all of which self-destruct within a stipulated time frame. Yes, you heard right. Self-destruct, go poof, absolutely no record left behind. That’s what makes both these apps special.
Such a service is known by many names – impermanent photo messaging, ephemeral messaging, and the very popular one –sexting. No prizes for guessing why. Since the average lifespan of each message is about 10 seconds, you can send across a ‘private’ image (read naughty) you want without worrying about its consequences or fallout like the photo falling into the wrong hands, or being retained on servers (which makes the possibility of them being leaked by hackers quite distinct).
Snapchat and Poke messages can be set to self-destruct within a few seconds, the maximum allowed being 10 seconds. Poke images, though, ‘remain’ on the servers for a slightly longer duration (till the time of the writing of this piece). An image remains on FB servers for 2 days after the recipient’s last view just in case of any abuse allegations that may come up. After that, the encryption key is destroyed but it is still possible to retrieve the message for 90 more days from logs, etc.
Facebook has said it was working in reducing this period. Also, the minute you try to take a screenshot of such pictures on either app, the sender is alerted.
The enormity and consequences of such apps is still being figured out. Let me put it this way –sexting is still being digested across the Internet. But by now, readers would have got a fair idea of what Snapchat and Poke are into.
Now, coming to the war. Poke re-launched barely a few days ago, raising howls of protests from Snapchat and its users. Snapchat was available in October this year so it is but natural that copycat accusations are being hurled by the latter against the former. 
Facebook, which also bought over the very popular photo sharing app, Instagram, in April this year, is thus using two weapons in its arsenal against Snapchat, Poke and Instagram. But the guys at Snapchat and it millions of users do not seem like giving in to the competition easily.
Online publications are reporting on this full-fledged war on a day-to-day basis. Partly because it’s getting murkier, partly because the year’s coming to an end, and it’s being a relatively slow news week, what with the holiday season, and all.
Take this story in the Business Insider, for instance. The report talks of the users’ review and comments on the Poke page. ‘Stolen’, ‘Should be sued for copyright violation’ are some examples. But according to the report, some users have agreed that Poke is a better version of Snapchat.
One of Snapchat’s co-founders, Evan Spiegel, also got on to this band wagon when Poke was launched. In identical statements to The Verge and TechCrunch, Evan had said, ‘Welcome, Facebook. Seriously.’ 
This was a play on an old Apple newspaper advertisement published in the Wall Street
Journal in 1981 titled, ‘ Welcome, IBM, seriously.’ Apple had run this ad after IBM had introduced its 1st PC.
The other measure of popularity being deployed by Poke and Snapchat users is which of the two apps is more popular on the Apple Store. Barely 24 hours after it was launched, Poke had taken over the No:1 slot, only to plummet to as low as No:36 in the next few days. Snapchat, on the other hand, was sitting at the No:4 slot, till the time of the writing of this column.
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
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