How was Snapchat Developed?

Snapchat is one of the most popular social applications today, especially among younger users, thanks to its multimedia image and video services. A pioneer for its funny and original filters, the social network won our hearts and captured the attention of millions of users and brands around the world, through its ease to share everyday content in a secure way.


It has some peculiarities, such as sharing your photos or videos with your contact list establishing the display time of your statuses for an individual or group of friends. In this article, we’ll look through the latest updates of the application and see how they currently work.


What is Snapchat

Snapchat is a mobile application for Android and iOS devices. It is run by co-founder Evan Spiegel and one of the core concepts of the app is that any image, video, or message that you send, by default, is made available to the recipient only for a short time before it becomes inaccessible.


This temporary or ephemeral nature of the application was originally designed to encourage a more natural flow of interaction.


Snapchat initially focused on private person-to-person photo sharing, but now you can use it for a variety of different tasks, such as live video chat, creating cartoon-like Bitmoji avatars, messaging, and famously share a chronological “story” communicated to all of your followers.


It even lets you store media in a private storage area. For the past year, it’s been known for the Discovery area that shows short-form content from publishers of magazines and newspapers all around the world.


Snapchat Elements
Source: TechCrunch


How Snapchat started

Snapchat as a project was born under the leadership of a trio of young Stanford students. However, this team will soon turn into a duo, and only 2/3 of the group will become part of the elite of the best known young entrepreneurs.


Initially, the trio was formed by Frank Reginald Brown – or Reggie Brown as his friends now him – Evan Spiegel, current CEO, and Bobby Murphy, CTO. However, today only Evan and Bobby are at the helm of one of the companies with more potential in the technology and social industry.


Nevertheless, the project was created almost a decade ago in 2011, when, during a break from studying English at Stanford University, young Frank Reginald Brown thought of something that would change the core of social media forever: “I would like to be able to send photos that later disappear.”


His main motivation was to be able to privately send and receive intimate photos of the girls he was dating, but without keeping a record or the risk of having these personal images leack on the internet.


Early stages and Picaboo

The idea was different and new – photos that disappear without a trace. He knew the idea had potential so he had to tell the right person, the one who could set this project in motion, following the right steps to shape it.


After running the hallways looking for that right person to present his idea, Brown got the answer he was hoping for: “It’s a millionaire idea” replied his friend Spiegel, who was studying Product Design at the Californian institution.


The two brought in Bobby Murphy, also a fraternity member, to write the code for the platform. Meanwhile, Brown would take care of the marketing area.


At first, Snapchat was called Picaboo, a mix between the acronym of the word “picture” and the peek-a-boo children’s game. At this time, the new project also adopted the famous logo of the ghost, which was designed by Spiegel himself.


Curiously enough, the first attempt of releasing Picaboo was in the form of a web application for desktop use. However, they quickly realized that it worked best only for mobile phones.


At the same time, only after a few months of existence, Picaboo received a cease-and-desist letter from a photobook company using the same name. As a result, in July 2011, Picaboo was rebranded as Snapchat, the name we all know today.


Snapchat Creators
Source: Inkl


The trio spent all summer working on the idea until the prototype was ready. But, as often happens with billion-dollar ideas and young companies, internal fights began to flourish, reaching their peak in August 2011.


Three is a crowd

The main discrepancies between the founders revolved around the ownership division of the app. Brown believed that the ownership of the company would be divided equally among the three. But, Spiegel and Murphy didn’t think the same, as they worked to set up the mobile app, their contribution had to be greater. So they came up with a plan to put him out of business.


When it was time to present the documents to patent the idea of Snapchat and share the profits, Brown requested a third of the shares package. However, since the rest of the team disagreed, they then chose to change the passwords on the startup’s servers and blocked him from all revenue.


Things weren’t left at that, feeling betrayed, Brown decided to take the matter to court, and in 2013 served his friends with a lawsuit, reiterating his claims for the shares belonging to him. A year later, they agreed on compensation with the sum was $157.5 million.


Is this it for Snapchat?

Snapchat gained popularity fast, generating income and high benefits every day for years, receiving offers of $3 million from Facebook frontman, Mark Zuckerberg, and rejecting it. This daydream could not last forever, and Snapchat seems to have its days counted.


With the emergence of stories on Instagram, the users saw they could have everything in just one app, so they started deleting Snapchat, especially in countries outside the United States. In just eight months, the users of Instagram Stories surpassed the users in Snapchat, doubling them just one year after.


For now, the dream of being a profitable company is far on the horizon: its turnover in the first 9 months of 2019 was $1155 million, but the losses amount to $800 million. Meanwhile, Spiegel, from his role as CEO, must regret the multi-million dollar offers that he knew how to reject at the time.


Regardless, the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of TikTok may have given a big boost to Snapchat, having increased their users by 29% in August. But the future of Snapchat is still unknown, we will have to see how the company evolves and what changes are carried out to differentiate from all the competition to improve its results, or sink in.


How Snapchat Works

This is a tricky yet simple question. It’s easy to use, but the app is being updated frequently. As Snapchat could look and function completely differently in just a few days, we’ll focus on its features and how they work generally, but more importantly, the main screens you’ll see when browsing Snapchat.


Source: PR Newswire


Camera Screen

From the moment you open Snapchat, your camera will automatically open, where you’ll see different options and buttons, but the main objective of this screen is capturing your snapshot.


Each button has its own functionality:

  • Capture button in the middle to take your snapshot.
  • Access the Memories screen where you’ll see all the content you’ve created throughout the years on the platform.
  • Chat screen to talk with your contact friends either by private messaging or in a group.
  • Stories screen. All the storIes from your contacts and yours will be displayed on said screen.
  • Profile screen by clicking the Avatar.
  • Search button, to look for friends in your contact list.
  • The moon icon lights up the screen, just in case it’s dark outside.
  • Flash turned on/off or automatic.
  • Switch the camera view to the front.


To snap your moment tap (to take a photo) or hold (for video) the capture button, to then sending it to your friends, posting it to your story, or even save it to your device or Snapchat library itself.


But, before sending your snapshots, the fun part of Snapchat is decorating your photos with different elements:


Snapchat Edit
Source: TechCrunch


  • Pencil: This allows you to choose a color for freehand drawing. With the symbol, you can also add a text that works as a label or add emoticons.
  • Sticker: In here you’ll find different elements such as time, temperature, speed velocity, location, mention… But this is mainly used to add a sticker to your photo or video. You can create your own stickers.
  • Scissor: To create your own sticker, snap a photo, and use this tool to trim any part of the photo you want so can then use it as a sticker.
  • Clip: Add a link to your shot, so your friends can tap on it and get redirected to its webpage.
  • Timeline: Start-and-stop video function, to make your video more entertaining.
  • Multi Snap: Take different videos and photos and send them all together to your friends.
  • AR lenses: To see your saved and world lenses, tap the camera view. Go through them and tap one to apply it. From there, you can decorate the plugin and share it with others.


AR lens Snapchat
Source: Ten15AM


  • Sounds: The platform has introduced a new feature that allows users to add music into their snapshots.


    Sounds SnapchatSource: TechCrunch


At the top left, there is an X that allows you to discard the creation of the Snap.


Snap Map screen

When you open Snapchat and face the Camera screen, pinch in the location icon at the bottom left, to see Snap Map. You will then see your Bitmoji avatar, on a live map. Tap the Settings button if you want to enter “Ghost Mode” and become invisible. Either way, any user you follow who hasn’t enabled ghost mode will appear on the map so you can see their exact location in real-time.


Snapchat can also display user stories from around the world so you can quickly tap and see what’s happening elsewhere. Your location on the Snap Map is only updated when you have Snapchat open.


Snap Map Screen
Source: Geospatial World


Memories screen

In this tab, you’ll find all the moments you’ve captured. Snapchat allows you to create new Stories, edit and send snapshots of the content saved on this screen.


To open Memories, just swipe up from the Camera Screen or tap the cards next to the Capture button. Here you can not only store snapshots into the platform but also access locally stored media on your device.


You can search for memories, share memories, bookmark memories, and more. On the Memories screen, you can also access your profile, capture a snap, and go to the Chat and Stories screens.


Memories Snapchat
Source: Snapchat


Chat screen

You can start a new chat, search and see all your active chats, and even go to your profile screen to capture a moment. The goal of this section is to share conversations in a group or with just one friend. In the chats you can do many things apart from sending text messages,  you can send a snap, cash, or even start a live video chat.


You can also edit a friend’s name, block or delete them. Just like photos disappear once they’ve been opened, chats are deleted by default after both of you have left the chat.


When you chat, a blue dot will appear at the bottom of the Chat screen, which means they are present in the chat. If they have Bitmoji set up, their Bitmoji will appear instead. This applies to group chats also, if your friend’s name lights up in a bubble above your keyboard, it’s letting you know that they are online.


Snapchat Chat
Source: Pocket Lint


Stories screen

On this screen, you can view streamed snapshots of all your friends on a reel that plays for up to 24 hours. Recent updates from friends are at the top, followed by the “For You” stories at the bottom.


Just tap on a friend’s name to start viewing their story, and then tap individual snapshots within the reel to jump forward. You can also swipe up when looking at a friend’s story to send them a private chat.


In the “For You” stories you have an infinite scrolling of content displayed for you, it goes from magazines such as Hello, that informs you of the latest news, content creators’ stories, and content that is currently trending such as So Satisfying or Viral Animals.


Furthermore, on this screen, you can also access your Bitmoji, add and search friends, as well as managing your setting and notifications.


Stories Screen
Source: Snapchat


Discover Screen

This section has been updated the most in the last years. This final tab show you different elements:

  • Quick Add: Contacts from your phone will show in this tab, so you can add them with a simple click next to their name.
  • Popular Snap Stars: Verified celebrities and current stars will be shown here, you can either subscribe or unsubscribe to their content, in order to be updated on their latest stories.
  • Trending Lenses: To explore the most used and new lenses to try on your snaps come to this tab and save your favorites, to, later on, send it to all your friends.
  • Popular Games & Minis: Presented a year ago as a new way to hang out with your friends, this space gives you the opportunity to play games with multiple of your contacts live.
  • Popular Shows: Content Creators from YouTube or TikTok are key in Snapchat, so they have their own space where they make and share episodes in different seasons.
  • Top Publishers: Magazines and brands from all over the world share their stories and articles on this page, where you can subscribe to, so you are always updated and informed of the latest news.


Discover Snapchat


Profile Screen

From most screens on Snapchat, you will see a ghost button or your Bitmoji avatar in the corner. When you access your profile screen, you’ll find different elements:

  • Snapcode – used to quickly add someone by scanning a QR.
  • Stories – to add to your story or Snapchat’s global.
  • Friends – where you can add more and see the ones you already have.
  • Bitmoji options – to change the outfit and edit your avatar.
  • Snap Map – where yours and your friend’s location can be seen and followed.
  • Latest news in Snapchat updates.


Chat Snapchat
Source: The Verge


Technology behind Snapchat

To program an application of the magnitude of Snapchat, is it required to carry out coding processes using a range of programming languages. Languages may differ according to the platform. For the front-end development on the iOS devices, they used Swift and Objective-C, meanwhile for the Andriod they required Java, Python, and PHP.


To store all the information they rely on Amazon Web Service for hosting, committed to spending $1 billion on servers by December 2021. Snapchat also relies on Google’s cloud infrastructure, for servers, storage, and networking that Google makes available to third parties.


AR Lenses

Snapchat changed the game in the selfies world when they acquired, in 2015, the Ukrainian business of Looksery for $150 million. The company is specialized in real-time facial tracking and modification technologies.


First things first, the technology recognizes a person’s face thanks to its algorithm, capable of processing only the information present in a grayscale image to determine the face in front of the camera, a process followed by scanning the different parts of your face. In this way, it determines contrasts in specific areas such as the nose, forehead, or jaw to establish with 99.9% accuracy that it is a face, in record time.


Once the face is determined, Looksery is able to locate each of the parts that make it up, thus determining general facial patterns. After analyzing a large number of faces in a database, the company is able to establish a series of points that mark the width and height of the eyebrows, as well as all the parts of the face on the face.


Once these elements are determined, a three-dimensional mask is created as a virtual face of the user.



Snapchat changed the game in social media completely. It’s easy to understand the growth of the platform, in a simple application you have everything, a place to talk with your friends either by video or by messaging, and tons of features to stay updated on the latest news.


But the current question is focused on whether the platform will die or not. Snapchat is trying to reinvent itself on and on, with new features and collaborations, but it’s not enough, the competition is heavily stronger and their numbers seem to decrease while the others are increasing day by day.



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