The company behind Snapchat, the disappearing message service headquartered a stone’s thrown from Los Angeles’ tawdry Venice Beach, has long in its non-Silicon Valley vibe: more streetwise, less overtly techie, and out to spawn fun rather than change the world.
And how better these days to set yourself apart from the Valley tech establishment than race to an initial public offering? Staying private for as long as possible has been the norm for the tech companies based closer to the traditional California tech heartland.
By appointing bankers this week and with an eye to selling its shares on Wall Street as early as March, five-year-old Snap (as it was recently renamed) is leaping ahead of companies as long in the tooth as Uber(set up seven years ago), Airbnb(eight), Dropbox(10) and Palantir(13).
上 周，成立5年的Snap（不久前Snapchat已改为这个名字）已指定银行家，打算最早于明年3月在华尔街销售其股票，步伐超过了优步（Uber，成立 于7年前）、Airbnb（成立于8年前）、Dropbox（成立于10年前）和Palantir（成立于13年前）等一批较老的公司。
The news of Snap’s stock market intentions comes as shares in Twitter— the Valley’s last blockbuster IPO, three years ago — have been,around by talk of on-again, off-again takeover discussions.
This coincidence feeds an obvious narrative: as one experiment in mobile messaging loses momentum, another is on the rise.
Given the vagaries of social media taste and the speed with which new fads take hold, can Snap’s moment in the sun be any more lasting? The comparison is superficially appealing but misleading, although there are certainly some striking similarities between Snap now and Twitter back in 2013.
The tweet machine was riding a strong growth curve when it went public.
More than 100m of Twitter’s users were visiting daily, and its audience had doubled from a year before.
Snap’s disappearing messages have put it on a similar trajectory.
It passed 150m daily active users four months ago, up 70 per cent from the year before.
Both services represent twists on messaging, which has turned out to be the killer app for mobile devices, as billions of people communicate with loved ones, broadcast updates to their wider circles or show off in front of the world.
Both companies are also trying to use this as a first step in building an all-embracing mobile media platform.
But in terms of their founding ideas and the speed at which they developed, Twitter and Snap could hardly be more different.
Twitter’s 140-character broadcast messages, a new unit of currency in digital expression, still come mainly in a jumbled stream, the profound mixed with the trivial and the abusive.
Non-aficionados still find the service confusing.
Snapchat, on the other hand, pioneered a new form of smartphone behaviour by picking the camera as the centre of its experience.
It is the only major messaging app built around making it as simple as possible to capture — and communicate with — pictures and videos.
The apparent gimmick of having messages expire after a few seconds also pulled off two impressive feats: bringing a new sense of the ephemeral to digital communications, and forcing users to pay attention in the moment — a highly valuable thing in a world full of distractions.
Snap also moved much faster — and more effectively — than Twitter, in grafting media platforms on to its service.
These came first in the shape of stories — a way to build personal images and videos into a longer narrative — and then a showcase for professional media.
Both feel entirely natural to its demotic style.
Also, despite its anti-nerd street cred, Snap has been pushing the boundaries on some of the most promising new technologies.
These include augmented reality (overlaying cartoon images on to videos in real time) and wearable technology (glasses that have a camera built into the frame).
These are dressed up as fun toys, something not to be taken too seriously — an approach to tech innovation that also sets Snap apart from its Silicon Valley rivals.
But they could represent a beachhead in the computing world’s next big markets.
This all fits with a youth brand that all of Snap’s ideas are designed to reinforce.
The glasses are a brand extension, an example of the application-specific gadgets that might start to become more prevalent as hardware costs fall.
Mobile computing is still very new and the low barriers to entry and powerful network effects have left the field wide open.
But by moving as fast as it has and building fun and experimentation into its DNA, Snap could be on the way to moving beyond its first act in a way that Twitter, for all the power of its tweets, can only dream of.