Oh Snap

Sext in Motion: Snapchat Is Now the Snapchat for Video

"They basically live on our server until they're viewed and then they’re gone forever."
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Intern Myles demonstrates the pink button of doom!

It seems like just 18 hours ago, we were begging some industrious app developer to get at us with a pitch for “the Snapchat for video,” that would let you send snippets of film with a self-destruct button. From that clamoring pit of public demand arose Vidburn, a video sharing app built for fun by the folks at Lamplighter Games at a Hack Day. “We had so many laughs playing with it afterwards that we spent a week cleaning it up for primetime. It was just submitted to Apple today so it should be live in about a week,” Lamplighter cofounder Kris Minkstein told us by email, offering to send a TestFlight.

But Vidburn may arrive at the App Store DOA because moments ago Snapchat just released an update that lets you send videos for 10 seconds or less. “We’ve been planning on today for a little while,” cofounder Evan Spiegel told Betabeat by phone, shrugging off questions about the timing of the release.

“The photos are core,” Mr. Spiegel said, but “it’s definitely changed the way I use the app.” For example, at an employee’s birthday party at an arcade, he said, “There was this kid going crazy on Dance Dance Revolution. Like unreal! So with Snapchat for video, I grabbed my phone and sent to a friend. You can’t really capture something like that, with the music and moving in a photo.”

We can think of some other things the video feature could capture as well.

Mr. Spiegel said Snapchat stores videos on its server the same way it stores photos. “Everything passes through our servers on the way to your friend’s phone. They basically live on our server until they’re viewed and then they’re gone forever,” he said. “I don’t think our users have viewed this as a Mission Impossible send your spy kind of video,” he said when we asked about screenshot-ing videos and security concerns from potential hacks. “Most people are sending funny faces,” he added, reiterating the company line. (Remember, kids, practice safe sexting! And this is not it.)

The technical challenges of incorporating video were related to the implementation of the dual-purpose button and transmission of video, he said. “You tap to take a photo or press and hold for video. No one has done that before. It takes ten seconds just to get to your video camera. By the time you’ve done that, it’s kind of game over–the moment has passed by.” Snapchat’s button, he argued, eliminates the “weird experience around ‘Is this moment a photo or video?’ which is a weird way to think about your life.”

Mr. Spiegel wouldn’t comment on a recent report from Om Malik that Benchmark Capital was investing $8 million in his company at a $50 million valuation. He was also similarly mum over speculation that this latest update could lay the groundwork for monetizing the app, a long-standing plan because the founders didn’t think they would be able to raise venture capital.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com