Ephemerality goes mainstream, ¡Viva la Snapchat!
Yesterday I was quoted at the end of a New York Times article on Facebook’s failed attempt to acquire Snapchat.
In an e-mail to Jenna, I wrote:
I think the most interesting thing is that they even considered acquiring what is essentially the antithesis of Facebook—an anonymous/pseudonymous and ephemeral community.
Does that mean that they’re willing to accept/embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel *that* threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?
I view this as far more shocking than the $3B price tag people are gawking over. The fact that Facebook would go so far outside of their own wheelhouse to accommodate an acquisition is telling. Unlike, say, Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr which was forward-thinking and offensive, Facebook’s failed bid for Snapchat feels reactive and defensive.
When I spoke about prismatic identity two years ago at Web 2.0 Summit, I ended my talk hopeful that another player would emerge and disrupt Facebook and Google’s narrow-minded devotion to “First Name/Last Name” and “Online == Offline” identity. In the back of my mind I thought that company would be Mozilla with their fledgling BrowserID (now Persona), but that didn’t come to fruition.
I’m still hopeful though. I hope Snapchat’s dramatic rise represents a shift not only in consumer preferences, but also sends a message to service providers that it’s possible to build great, valuable products that embrace both pseudonymity and ephemerality. (Two things that happen to be in my wheelhouse and deeply ingrained in 4chan’s ethos for more than a decade.)
As Google becomes increasingly tone deaf to the wishes of its users, I for one would love to see someone come along and build similar products that incorporate a more nuanced understanding of online identity. Heck, I’ve received no less than a dozen e-mails asking me to personally create a new video sharing site, so maybe that’s a good place to start.
Now, more than ever, a huge opportunity awaits those who dare to go where Facebook and Google won’t.
The question is—who will?
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