Guess who just might be the newest addition to the sexting community? Facebook. That's right, the nearly 9-year old company is growing up. Big time.
Technically, the service is about creating private, “self-destructable” picture and video messages that users can send and choose the amount of time that the photo will be available for viewing. After the allotted time, the content deletes itself from the sender’s and receiver’s phone, and from Snapchat's server. Like it never happened. You can imagine the appeal to those who want to send "cheeky" images.
Details for the release are still sketchy (Facebook's official response to ReadWrite's inquiry was: "We're not going to comment on rumor and speculation."). But we do know that Snapchat boasts a community that sends 50 million photos per day, and Facebook is likely betting its users, 1 billion people, who upload about 300 million photos a day, want to play. Although this app would a stand-alone product, operating like Facebook's Instagram app, the coming service would be able to draw from a huge user base.
Ben Tao, chief executive of adult crowd-funding site Offbeatr, and digital marketplace Extra Lunch Money, says there is a huge market for sexting. But he's not sure people will look to Facebook for it.
"If people can do this for free and know that those messages and pictures are never stored, even more people will use it," he said. "However, given Facebook's privacy reputation I doubt [it will] be able to convince the majority of users that these messages and photos are deleted like they are on SnapChat. When people think of 'sexting,' people think of SnapChat. They don't think Facebook."
But Kelly Lux, a social media strategist at Syracuse University's iSchool, thinks the app could be big, and used for more innocent purposes than sending NSFW content. "My view is that Facebook is going to jump on whatever bandwagon is hot at the moment and see if something sticks," Lux said.
Lux doesn't think the forthcoming app will be as big as Instagram because of the fleeting nature of its content. She also cautions that the promise of impermanence of photos and videos could lead to bad choices on the part of users. Even though the photos themselves would be automatically deleted, fast-fingered recipients or uploaders could still take screenshots or save those photos.
"I think this idea sets a bad precedent for young people who still have not heeded the wisdom of 'what happens on the Internet, stays on the internet,'" Lux warned. "There are permanent digital footprints from their connected activities."
The app is supposed to launch before the end of the year. That's two weeks away.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.