Just over a year ago, student Evan Spiegel stood up front of his classmates and presented new technology which was derided by his contemporaries as a “terrible idea”.
But Spiegel, a student at Stanford University, California, didn’t give up on his belief that a new mobile phone app, designed to allow people to send self-destructing photographs, would be hugely popular.
And now his product Snapchat, a partnership between Spiegel and fellow-founder Bobby Murphy, is being used to send a staggering 50 million messages every day.
Since the app was introduced in July last year, the Snapchat community has shared more than a billion images.
Snapchat is even continuing to gain momentum despite being joined in the marketplace by one of the industry’s biggest players, Facebook, which has launched a similar app called Poke.
“Everyone said, ‘That is a terrible idea,” said Spiegel. “Not only is nobody going to use it, they said, but the only people who do, will use it for sexting.”
There is no doubt that the product is being used for sexting – the appeal being that users believe no discernible trace of the image they send is left.
But, it appears that, while the photographs and videos do disappear if Snapchat is used as intended, people can decide to save communications through Snapchat, or indeed Poke.
As Mat Honan, who is senior editor at Wired magazine, said: “You can take screen shots, you can save them on a drive. There are all kinds of ways to save these images.
“Everyone has this fear that everything online is permanent so that’s the point of this, but having the ability to take a screen shot really defeats the whole purpose of Snapchat.”
Despite those issues, Snapchat remains hugely popular, even with its humble headquarters, which are currently based in Evan Spiegel’s father’s house in Los Angeles.
Perhaps, that could soon change though as the company is believed to be in talks with several Silicon Valley investors at the moment, for a large round of funding.
If successful, it could make the battle between Poke and Snapchat even more interesting. When Facebook’s offering came onto the market just before Christmas, it shot to the top of the download charts.
But Poke has now slid down the app charts while Snapchat is currently retaining its spot near to the top for Android and iOS devices.
Its popularity comes despite, or maybe because of, controversy created over the last year or so, with many critics sayings Snapchat could be responsible for promoting worrying sexual behaviour among youngsters.
But Spiegel said his app wasn’t all about sexting, but was used by people sharing an inside joke perhaps, or simply pulling a silly face at their friends.
“I’m not convinced that the whole sexting thing is as big as the media makes it out to be,” he said. “I just don’t know people who do that. It doesn’t seem that fun when you can have real sex.”