Perched at the edge of a cliff, enveloped in spectacular geologic scenery against the backdrop of a picture-perfect sky, I am sandwiched in a row of girlfriends, all simultaneously posing for selfies.
I just had to capture the comedic nature of that scene on my latest social media toy, Snapchat. I surreptitiously panned my camera around each one of them, and finished with a goofy expression of my reaction. It was brilliant. I burst out laughing and called to the closest friend to see, but when I turned the screen to her, poof! It was gone. Forever. A priceless moment that I could never revisit.
Such is the nature of Snapchat, which I’ve since sworn off after that fateful and devastating flick of a finger. Moments shared on Snapchat are designed to be short lived. I can’t come to terms with the idea that someone would not want to revisit memories, and thus determined that Snapchat is just not for me.
But my feelings on the latest social network to take the mobile world by storm don’t make the app any less relevant of a force in our digitally driven universe. I was reminded of this at the recent AV/IT Leadership Summit in NYC. “Snapchat is the main collaboration platform many millennials will have experienced prior to being in a corporate or higher education environment,” said James Basler, senior video conferencing engineer and designer at IAC.
So in terms of learning and listening to end users’ technology preferences, Snapchat matters a lot to the way AV systems of the futures should be designed, whether we like it or not.
From a statistical view, Snapchat is hugely impressive. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast on mobile messaging apps, Snapchat is growing its U.S. user base by double digits in 2016, surpassing Twitter. The biggest demographic base of users is 18- to 24-year-olds, representing 34 percent. The fastest growing U.S. age group for the app is those under 12, projected to grow by over 40 percent this year.
Perhaps the most perplexing element of considering Snapchat as the filter through which many millenials will use videoconferencing, as Basler further stated, is that its interface is notoriously unintuitive. As my digital editor tells me, many of the functions of Snapchat are shrouded in mystery intentionally. It’s one thing that sets it apart in the crowded field of social networks, and I can certainly understand how that appeals to today’s youth, where Facebook has become a zone your grandmother espouses political views in and leaves embarrassing comments for all your friends to see.
It’s a bit paradoxical to take design cues from cryptic user interface, but what is useful to note is that it is an entirely visual interface. There are no buttons or widgets, nor instructions for that matter. The 150 million daily users worldwide, according to Bloomberg, have simply figured it out. This reminds me of a frequent chorus in the industry, which I heard throughout the AV/IT Leadership Summit: Everyone wants to walk into a room where every function is sensed immediately, and there’s next to nothing a person needs to do start a collaborative, engaging meeting.
The impact of Snapchat for AV systems remains a complex idea to explore. One thing I sure won’t forget is to share my precious memories elsewhere.