The photo above is a demonstration, via a very interesting interactive webpage on Photoworld.com, of what happens every second on Snapchat. The image and video sharing app has experienced monstrous growth recently. According to Snapchat itself, users were sending 700 million photos and images daily, which is alarming considering that (in a rough estimate) 1 billion photos are taken daily, suggesting that Snapchat has cornered the market on, well, images.
This could very well be an exaggeration on the part of Snapchat (which we'll address in a moment) but it is impossible to deny that Snapchat has become a major player in the world of social imaging and sharing. Business Insider puts Snapchat's user count between 100 and 200 million depending on how it is measured, with a base that skews young, a demographic for which advertisers are always clamoring.
The above mention of exaggeration on the part of Snapchat makes sense in the context of the recent news that CEO Evan Spiegel plans to take the company public. (In fact, some analysts have suggested that Snapchat's growth is actually stalling.) The company currently has a valuation of $16 billion. This is a great deal higher than the $3 billion that Facebook offered to purchase the app late last year. The valuation and possible IPO also represents something of a defeat for Facebook.
The behemoth of the social networking world most likely wanted to further cement its place as the central hub for image sharing, as it did with its purchase of Instagram for what now seems like a relatively cheap $1 billion in 2012. The advantages of Facebook owning Snapchat would have been twofold: First, it would have absorbed a competitor. While Snapchat isn't a social network per se in the way Facebook is, they are still competing for eyeballs, especially because, second, Facebook is losing young people, often to sites like Snapchat, and it would have been easier to just add Snapchat to its holdings rather than be forced to compete directly.
Now Facebook finds itself with a changing demographic base, and an up and coming competitor. It's an increasingly difficult position to be in when the nature of the social media industry is rapid, and often unpredictable, change. Could Snapchat be the next Facebook? Maybe, at least until something comes along to supplant Snapchat.