The following is an excerpt from Joel Stein | March 2, 2017 | Time.com |
I have never bought a camera.
I don't enjoy photography. Yet I have saved 6,982 photos and 144 videos since my cell phones started coming with built-in lenses. I have recorded my family history dutifully--exactly as Kodak first began instructing moms to do in the 1890s--capturing birthdays, vacations, grandparent visits, first bicycle rides. But the bar for a Kodak moment has clearly been lowered. I have more than 7,000 of these things. I am creating a massive museum to myself that no one will ever enter. Not even me.
In 2011, Stanford students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy figured out that photos had been massively revalued and no one had noticed. In an 1859 essay in the Atlantic, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. called the camera a "mirror with a memory;" Spiegel and Murphy realized that having a zillion memories can be a burden. So they created Snapchat, an app in which images that are sent disappear after one viewing. Snapchat contended that because photography is now free and frictionless, it is a medium for communication, not commemoration. As a result, Snapchat's parent firm, Snap, isn't really a social-media company. Instead of likes or comments or forwards, its currency is the "streak," a calculation of how many days you and another person have privately communicated with each other. It trades in intimacy, not popularity. As its name so neatly explains, Snapchat is really a utility company for visual texting.
At a lunch awhile back, Snap CEO Spiegel put his smartphone on the table and told me that it had replaced the Internet, and now he wanted to figure out what was going to replace the smartphone. Much of Silicon Valley is trying to discover that. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg thinks the answer is going to be virtual reality; Amazon's Jeff Bezos is betting on voice recognition. Spiegel believes in the camera.
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