My thesis is as follows: Facebook is a community and Snapchat is a fraternity (or sorority). The reasoning for this classification can be traced back to the founders themselves.
It all starts with Zuckerberg and his market insight.
He recognized that the world was moving from offline to online and he jumped at the opportunity to digitize social connections. He first focused on a small Harvard niche then slowly laddered up to countries and now continents. Network effects are real, people.
One of the reasons, if not the single reason, Facebook is so powerful today is because it has our digital identity.
This allows the company to leverage said identity for advertising, optimizing on engagement and cashing it in for dollar bills. Facebook then uses those dollar bills to capture even more identities across the world to start the cycle anew.
This cycle operates like a well oiled growth machine because of Zuckerberg’s methodical use of algorithms.
But one of the assumptions that Zuckerberg coded into the algos was the idea that every person has one identity. This is a widely recycled quote from the The Facebook Effect:
“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
While this may ring true for Zuckerberg, it doesn’t necessarily mean it rings true for all of humanity. Facebook makes perfect sense in a vacuum but humans are irrational.
Recognizing this gap, a new visionary came along, carrying with him his own market insight.
The moment you read Spiegel's leaked emails from his college days you recognize that he is probably cut from a different tree than Zuckerberg (probably from a tree more like Sean Parker).
Ephemeral messaging was a necessity for Spiegel and his crew if they were going to act the way that college kids often do. Their experiences wouldn’t fly posted on a commercialized Facebook feed.
Spiegel recognized that maybe he wasn’t the only one who felt and acted this way. Maybe there were other people like him that found it exhausting wearing just one mask all the time.
Maybe people wanted to act like they do around friends and family, people they truly trust. Sometimes this is goofy. Other times this is inappropriate. But it’s authentic nonetheless.
In other words, Snapchat is attempting to digitize authentic relationships by leveraging the iPhone camera as a means of communication.
The visual communication of Snapchat allows true friends to be together when they are apart. Snapchat provides a digital couch to hang out on behind closed doors.
A brief nonsequidor here: what do friends do on the couch together? They typically watch TV. Small wonder that Snap made broadcast TV just one swipe away. Food for a later post.
People that are comparing the reach and growth of Snapchat to Facebook are missing the point entirely. Snap would rather you use Snapchat incessantly with your ten closes friends than loosely with thousands of connections, which is what the Facebook community has become.
There are times when we don’t want to be our public facing self and that’s what Snapchat nails. I think the reason it’s hard for Zuckerberg to accept this is because he is the same person in front of and behind closed doors (this isn’t a bad thing, and probably why Zuckerberg will run for President soon).
Spiegel is happy to operate under a different mindset, allowing Facebook to own public identity while Snapchat takes aim at our private avatar.
So is human nature more aligned to Zuck or Spiegs? Only time will tell.