When less is more: Apps like Snapchat, Cinemagram and Vine encourage us to keep it real

Published 21 March 2013 16:07, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32

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When less is more: Apps like Snapchat, Cinemagram and Vine encourage us to keep it real

Light-weight, limited feature social sharing applications encourage us to be ourselves online, says entrepreneur Ryan Junee Photo: Dustin Diaz

Communication behaviour is changing. SMS, IM, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Cinemagram, Vine. If you haven’t heard of all of these products your kids certainly have, and these products are the best map we have for predicting the future of communication.

My first ‘aha’ moment came from an unexpected place - not from a psychologist or a technology entrepreneur but from Ashton Kutcher. You may recall he was the first Twitter user to reach one million followers so he knows a thing or two about social media.

When responding to a question at a recent private gathering of investors and technology CEOs, he explained a spectrum of communication tools, from simple text such as SMS, through photo sharing, and video sharing on the far end.

Products further along the spectrum enable richer and more emotional content - they say a picture is worth a thousand words so sharing a photo must be worth at least seven tweets.

But at the same time it becomes harder to present our ‘aspirational selves’ as the medium becomes richer. While it is easy to craft a witty status update or apply an artistic Instagram filter to a photo, when sharing a video it is the real, unvarnished you.

This is scary to most people but especially so for those who have grown up in the digital world and are all too aware of the permanence of anything posted online.Today we are witnessing the emergence of something new, a way of reconciling these opposing forces and enabling communication that is simultaneously rich, immediate and authentic.

Snapchat, a company that didn’t exist two years ago and now sees more than 60 million photos being shared daily, is the first in a new wave of communication apps. The reason for its success is beautifully simple.

Photos shared on Snapchat can be viewed for just 10 seconds before they self-destruct. This encourages authentic, personal communication without fear of it getting in the wrong hands. It also commands the undivided attention of the recipient.

New video-sharing products such as Cinemagram and Vine (owned by Twitter) encourage low-friction authentic sharing of short videos of our lives by employing simple user interfaces and limited feature sets. Although a different approach to Snapchat, these products also seem to be succeeding where other ‘heavier’ video sharing players have failed.

So what do we make of all this? Authentic communication is a basic human need and those who tap into it will win big. Of course, it’s all about the younger generation, so the next time you see a teenager on the phone pay attention to the apps on the home screen. One of them may be the next billion dollar business.

Ryan Junee is an Australian entrepreneur who has lived in Silicon Valley for nine years. He has founded two companies, one of which was acquired by Google.

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