Do I really have to use Snapchat?

Snapchat filed for its initial public offering Thursday, which makes it a good time to admit that I completely suck at Snapchat.

I have the app on my phone (I installed it first on my iPad, which should exhibit how confused I am about the whole proposition), but it’s among the least-used apps on that device. And that doesn’t seem likely to change.

Self-portrait using Snapchat's snorkel-and-fish lensFew of the friends from whom I’d want to get real-time messages number among its 158 million daily active users, and even fewer seem to use it actively versus lurking on it. I will check out the occasional Story from a news or entertainment site, but that slightly longer-form medium has yet to become a regular part of my info-diet.

I could use Snapchat as yet another way to connect with readers. But without any clients or readers asking me to do this–and with a surplus of social-media distractions already on my various devices–I’m struggling to see the upside.

The biggest reason for my holding off is, to put it bluntly, is that I’m ancient relative to Snapchat’s millennial demographic. I didn’t get the initial appeal of the app when it was focused on sexting disappearing messages, and I’ve been stuck in a get-off-my-lawn mentality ever since.

Snapchat’s self-inflicted wounds are part of the story too. This startup had barely been in existence for three years before having a data breach expose partial phone numbers of more than 4.5 million users, after which it accepted a 20-year settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. That’s not the sort of thing that makes me want to give an app access to my phone’s contacts list. It does not help that founder Evan Spiegel hasn’t exactly seemed like the most enlightened founder in tech.

Finally, there’s Snapchat’s cryptic interface, which expects the user to swipe in random directions to see what features might surface. When the clearest explanation of this UI comes as a diagram on page 92 of Thursday’s S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, we have a serious failure of discoverability. That, too, does not make me want to spend my time figuring out this app.

As that pre-IPO disclosure to investors itself admits: “These new behaviors, such as swiping and tapping in the Snapchat application, are not always intuitive to users.”

I’m not going to delete the app from my phone or anything. It’s an important part of social media today, and I should stay at least functionally literate in it. But if you were hoping to have that be yet another instant-messaging app you can reach me on… look, don’t I have enough of those to monitor already?

Perhaps I’m wrong. If so, please don’t try to convince me otherwise in a Snapchat chat; leave a comment here instead.

 

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Weekly output: Alexis Ohanian, Snapchat, fitness gadgets, Mac webcam

As I type this, I’m on my way to my 17th CES in a row. My laptop and phone have advanced a great deal since 1998, that’s for sure.

DisCo Ohanian interview

1/2/2014: Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian: Current IP Laws Aren’t Much Of A Friend to Startups, Disruptive Competition Project

My final contribution at DisCo was an interview with Reddit’s founder, who’s since become both an investor and activist on many tech-policy issues. We talked about how a balanced intellectual-property system helped make Reddit possible–and how the same system doesn’t always offer much help for small companies whose own IP has been infringed.

1/2/2014: Snapchat experienced a security breach, WTOP

I talked to D.C.’s news-radio station about Snapchat’s inexcusably lax approach to security and how it’s harder to change a compromised phone number than a password.

1/3/2014: New fitness gadgets, Fox 5 News

WTTG’s Sarah Simmons quizzed me on what activity-tracking gadgets like the Jawbone Up and the FitBit can do to help you track your exercise–and how they’re at risk of being made obsolete by tools built into smartphones.

1/4/2014: Q&A: How can I re-install my laptop’s webcam?, USA Today

The column recounts how resetting my MacBook Air’s System Management Controller cured it of an inability to see its own webcam… except that when I opened the laptop this morning, the problem had returned. Either I didn’t do the SMC reset correctly, or this Mac has a deeper ailment. Either way, I hope I don’t have to Skype or FaceTime from this machine this week.

On Sulia, I inventoried the memes I ignored on Twitter this year (“Duck Dynasty” should have been on that list too, as I’ve never watched the show, have no interest in watching it and don’t care who’s on it), wondered why Google Now’s estimate of my cycling mileage in December missed my Capital Bikeshare rides, whined about Chrome asking for saved passwords on every restart (and then updated that post to share a fix), endorsed a great little Mac plug-in called “WordService” that adds editing tools to just about every other app, and teed off on Snapchat for its arrogant refusal to apologize.