BEST OF THE WEB: Why self-destructing media is the next big thing

Some of the biggest controversies over the past few years have begun because of the smartphone camera. Whenever a celebrity’s phone has been hacked, shortly afterwards some explicit photographs end up online and the internet goes wild. Even political scandals have begun due to some pretty awkward pictures having shown up on the internet.

Teenagers are told about the dangers of “sexting”, and indeed in many countries high schoolers have found themselves at the wrong end of child pornography laws after sharing explicit photos with friends.

But a new popular app is attempting to change all that.

Snapchat has become one of the most popular apps in the App Store – ahead of Instagram in early February – and attempts to do away with those concerns. Every time you send a picture, it automatically destroys itself after 10 seconds.

It’s disappearing data in a digital world when nothing ever goes away. Both individuals – and businesses – are told to be careful, because the internet is forever. But Snapchat is attempting to do away with those concerns forever.

In this piece at Businessweek, the publication delves into the history of Snapchat, founded by Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy while attending Stanford University. They wanted to create an app that wouldn’t leave a trace of any of their mischievous behaviour.

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been better.

As they worked on a prototype over the summer, then-Congressman Anthony Weiner was in the news because of some indiscreet photo-sharing with women he met on Twitter, and career-immolation-by-selfie was on everyone’s mind. Snapchat launched on Apple’s (AAPL) App Store that fall and downloads soon soared.

“Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment,” Spiegel wrote on the company blog in May 2012. “It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. Like when I think I’m good at imitating the face of a star-nosed mole, or if I want to show my friend the girl I have a crush on.”

In many ways this type of app is the anti-Facebook. As the piece describes, Facebook wants to hold on to information for as long as it can. Snapchat wants to destroy it.

Destroy-your-own media is becoming much more readily available. In the summer of 2012 a team of data security experts in San Francisco launched Wickr, a free mobile app that allows users to send each other an array of impermanent media—including self-destructing text messages, videos, audio files, and PDFs. Like Snapchat, users customize how long their messages will live on the recipient’s device (lasting up to several days) before disappearing.

Get set – destructive media is the next big thing.
Are the US Republicans just too far behind?

At Best of the Web we’ve covered Barack Obama’s innovations in technology for campaigning, but in a new piece at The New York Times, a conservative software development group is spending its time lecturing Republicans on how far behind they are when it comes to online marketing.

And the results aren’t good.

Developers Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer are telling Republicans, in the form of a 61-point presentation, what exactly they did wrong.

The results are pretty bad:

  • 1.25 million more young people supported Obama in 2012 over 2008
    • Romney’s team raised slightly more money from online ads than it spent, but Obama’s team doubled its investment

The developers delight in rubbing in the pain.

“We ask our clients, do you know what Reddit is? And only one of them did. Then we show them this photo of Obama hugging his wife with the caption, “four more years” – an image no conservative likes.”

“And we tell them, “because of the way the Obama campaign used things like Reddit, that photo is the single-most popular image ever seen on Twitter or Facebook”. Just to make sure there’s plenty of salt in the wound.”

The piece is a good investigation into the American political scene, but it’s also telling about the gap between both sides of politics when it comes to online:

But the problem for the G.O.P. extends well beyond its flawed candidate and his flawed operation. The unnerving truth, which the Red Edge team and other younger conservatives worry that their leaders have yet to appreciate, is that the Republican Party’s technological deficiencies barely begin to explain why the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

If you think your business is behind when it comes to tech, you might want to have a look at these guys.

Unravelling the Chinese hacking web

With so many stories about hacking in the past few days, it seems appropriate to delve into the world of Chinese hacking. So much of the world’s spam and hacking attempts stem from the country, and in this latest piece at BusinessWeek, the publication delves into the complicated nature of offshore hacking.

Joe Stewart, the director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks, spends his days looking for malicious software. But he’s falling behind, and through no fault of his own:

Within the industry, Stewart is well-known. In 2003 he unraveled one of the first spam botnets, which let hackers commandeer tens of thousands of computers at once and order them to stuff in-boxes with millions of unwanted e-mails.

He spent a decade helping to keep online criminals from breaking into bank accounts and such. In 2011, Stewart turned his sights on China. “I thought I’d have this figured out in two months,” he says. Two years later, trying to identify Chinese malware and develop countermeasures is pretty much all he does.

Any business affected by the threat of hacking or malware – hint: every single one – should check this piece out. It’s a great look at where the biggest cyber threats are coming from and a good look into just how comprehensive and fierce they can be.

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