Save 50%—more than $175—on a subscription during our 9th Anniversary celebrationAct Now

Art by Clark Miller
Art by Clark Miller

A Visionary Afloat: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel Helped Create the Social Web as We Know It. Now He’s Sinking Under It.

It’s been a dizzying decade for Snapchat, which now faces its most difficult period yet. Can its founder lead it out of another abyss?

Art by Clark Miller
Sept. 2, 2022 9:00 AM PDT

Evan Spiegel published his first blog post about Snapchat in 2012. Ten years later, it is still the most coherent description of an app that has proudly confused the tech world ever since.

“Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment,” the 22-year-old future Snap CEO wrote. “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.”

Reading it now, Spiegel’s blog post has the unmistakably twee techno-optimism of the early 2010s—there’s a whole passage about taking a picture of yourself “imitating the face of a star-nosed mole.” But it’s also Spiegel at his most visionary. He accurately predicted the future of the social web, the one we currently live in. He understood that social media wasn’t about managing bloated profiles of ourselves, but about experimentation and play. And it’s also clear now that TikTok, an app that has become the most important in the world for a new generation of internet users, didn’t come from Facebook’s evolutionary branch, but from Snapchat’s.

Spiegel’s platform has never conformed to what users, investors or the tech media expected it to be. In fact, 10 years after he, current Chief Technology Officer Bobby Murphy and classmate Reggie Brown first launched Snapchat as a bunch of Stanford University students, there’s still not a real consensus about what it is or how to use it. It’s a weird app, run by a weirder CEO.

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
Exclusive startups crypto
Crypto and AI-Focused Sequoia Partner Is Leaving the Firm
Sequoia Capital partner Divya Gupta is leaving the firm just weeks after the storied venture capital firm apologized to limited partners about its $214 million investment in the now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX. Gupta worked on seed- and early-stage investments in cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence at Sequoia, and has worked at the firm for under a year. A Sequoia spokesperson said he...
Latest Briefs
 
Pinterest Adds Elliott Management Executive to its Board
BuzzFeed Cuts 12% of Workforce
Apple Dials Back Ambitions for Self-Driving Vehicle, Delays Debut
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
startups venture capital
Six Investors Chasing Debt Deals During the Downturn
With equity investors dialing back and public markets frozen over, startups that need to raise money are short of options.
The 1:1 policy
A Billionaire Couple Goes for Broke: How John and Laura Arnold Plan to Give It All Away
On Election Day, John and Laura Arnold found themselves deep in the lion’s den: a few blocks from the White House, working from the new Washington D.C.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Photo by Bloomberg
Exclusive microsoft
Microsoft Eyes ‘Super App’ to Break Apple and Google’s Hold on Mobile Search
Microsoft recently considered building a “super app” that could combine shopping, messaging, web search, news feeds and other services in a one-stop smartphone app, in what would be an ambitious move by the software giant to expand further into consumer services, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Illustration by Josh Brill.
Opinion economy
A Raise May Be Out of the Question, but You Do Have Other Options
Layoffs have swept through the tech industry (and more may be on the horizon ), flooding the job market with qualified candidates—just like you—as even the large companies are fighting to stay afloat.
Animation by Clark Miller
The Big Read
The Passion of Cathie Wood: Why the ‘Wackiest Portfolio Manager on Earth’ Isn’t Losing Faith
Cathie Wood was sitting in a phone booth in the New York office of Ark Invest when she heard Tasha Keeney, one of the firm’s analysts, let out a scream—“a happy scream,” Wood recalled.
Photo by Bloomberg.
Exclusive
Marc Lore’s Kitchen on Wheels Startup Cuts Staff, Dials Back Delivery Ambitions
Wonder, a mobile kitchen and food-delivery startup led by Jet.com founder Marc Lore, has laid off 7% of its workforce, a company spokesperson said, as it attempts to overhaul its business.