Oh Snap

Where Would You Rather Share Self-Destructing Photos: Facebook’s Snapchat Clone or Snapchat?

Changing the rules of engagement.

snapchatLate last night, AllThingsD’s Mike Isaac offered an intriguing, if unsurprising report: Facebook is planning to launch a Snapchat competitor before the end of the year to send self-deleting photo messages to friends. Like Messenger, Camera, and Instagram, it will be a stand-alone app–and sounds awfully familiar.

Facebook’s competing app will do much the same thing. After a user opens the new app, they’re presented with a list of their current message threads between them and their friends. Hold your finger down on one of the threads, and a timer comes up to ask how long the message should be viewable. From there, you’re able to send the message which, just like on Snapchat, will only be viewable for a fixed period of time.

Facebook’s interest in Snapchat, which claims 50 million photos shared per day, is obvious. Zuck’s billion dollar acquisition of Instagram shows how eager he is to keep Facebook dominant in photo sharing. Secondly, it would help cover Facebook’s weakness in mobile. Instagram and Snapchat represent two big “mobile-first success stories,” in terms of acquiring users and hype, if not revenue just yet. (Let’s not forget the time Facebook also tried to kill Foursquare, another mobile standout.)

Snapchat’s biggest influence on the way we share photos seems to be a lowering of inhibitions: whether that means goofier images or ones with fewer clothes on. On the other hand, the idea of impermanence is not in Facebook’s rules of engagement. Between requiring real names, showcasing your history on Timeline, facial recognition technology to tag your friends, and selling ads against your interactions on the service, it’s hard to believe Zuck would ever let your data go in 10 seconds or less. Add in years of privacy foibles and the pressure of the public markets, and consumers just may trust Snapchat, “a company of just five people operating out of co-founder Evan Spiegel’s dad’s house,” over Facebook.

Of course, it’s always good to keep in mind that your selfies are just a hack or a social media slip-up away from prying eyes.

In line at Penn Station this weekend, we overheard a teenage girl gossiping about a friend who sent a picture “to his entire Snapchat list. So embarrassing!” More note-worthy for investors like Benchmark trying to get in on Snapchat’s cap table, however, was the fact that she followed that up by wondering if she should even download Instagram.

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