Only occasionally do you meet people who can look past what everyone else is doing and see through to an essential truth. Something that is obvious once they say it, but completely unclear beforehand. The founders of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, are two such people.
We reached out to Evan in February of 2012 because we had been hearing about Snapchat from a local highschool student. She said that the three apps everyone at school had on their phones were Angry Birds, Instagram and Snapchat. In Feb of 2012, we had heard of the first two, but not the third, so we wanted to learn more. Evan came in and told us the Snapchat story. But he didn’t talk about complex concepts like ephemeral messaging. Instead he made a simple observation.
For the course of human history, when two friends talked, it was not recorded. That allowed them to be free with each other; silly, angry, sad, happy, exited, whatever, but in-the-moment, real, authentic. That is how friendships are built. And because there was no record of any of it, they could go forward with their friendship, and not always have to look backwards at what was said before.
But somehow, over the last 10 years, like a frog in a pot of boiling water, we all got used to that changing. Between email, IM, SMS, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, somewhere along the line, the norm became that the vast majority of your communication with your friends was recorded. In many instances, they were not only recorded, but public and available for anyone to see, forever. And that changed us, it changed the way we communicate with our friends. We became guarded, we managed our social network profiles to make ourselves look good all the time. We became less in-the-moment, less real, less authentic. And the quality of our relationships and friendships suffered for it.
Snapchat is not about some new thing, “ephemeral messaging”. It is about returning to the old, comfortable norms, that what is said between friends is history and gone forever. And it brought back the in-the-moment, real, authentic communications between real friends.
Usually, one such insight is enough for one company. But today, Snapchat launched Snapchat Stories, behind a second insight that is just as deep.
Once upon a time, when people told stories, they started at the beginning, they proceeded through the middle, and they finished at the end. That is still how people tell stories today when they talk to each other in person. But again, like a frog in boiling water, we got used to that changing too, on social media. Whether it is Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, we became used to reverse chronological order. We read stories from the end, then scrolled down to the middle, and finally got to the beginning. Snapchat Stories brings us back to the natural order of things. Each day we can see our friends stories, from beginning, to middle, to end, from the last 24 hours. You can get a good sense of what a Story might be like (if you were a cool band gambling on tortoise racing in Chinatown!) from the 25 second mark here:
Evan and Bobby and the team have been working on this for over a year. It’s a big idea. It makes sense. And I think it will be just as successful as Snapchat. We are very happy to be investors in the company.