If you haven’t used Snapchat, you most likely have heard your friends talking about “snapchatting” each other by using this wildly popular app. Snapchat has been around for more than a year, but it is just currently sweeping the globe. It has skyrocketed to #3 on the iTunes free app chart as of November 27, 2012.

What makes Snapchat so great?

If you have never used Snapchat, here is an overview of what it is and why I think it is so popular.

Snapchat is a fun and interesting way to share photos with friends and family. The most ingenious feature of the app is that you have the option to control how long you want your snap to last before it disappears. The app gives you the option for a picture to be visible for one to ten seconds.

You have the ability to add captions to the picture by just tapping on the screen or even make a doodle on each photo. With each picture that you take, you can send it to just one person, or choose a group of several friends. Snapchat even identifies your “best friends” for you by creating a group for people that you snap with the most.

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It’s simple.

The concept of Snapchat is so simple that it makes the app incredibly easy and enjoyable to use. Snapchat plays on the principle that not all pictures that you take have to be perfect or beautiful. It is the sharing of real time, real life moments that has made Snapchat so popular. Sure you can Snapchat a pic of the Eiffel Tower, but “selfies” are extremely respectable and usually preferred.

Snapchat has really started to take off in recent months. This past June, Snapchat reported that over 110 million images had been sent and in October they announced that over 1 billion snaps have been sent using the app. In my opinion, Snapchat has changed the way we communicate. It allows us to interact with others 10x faster than MMS text messaging. You are given the ability to share moments of your life with anybody that you choose. Whether that be snapping your first-born child to your friend across the country, or taking a silly faced picture to your co-worker across the room, Snapchat has revolutionized human interaction.

Is it private and secure?

In spite of all the positives and value that people see in Snapchat, it has received a large amount of criticism about the safety and privacy of the pictures sent.

Snapchat claims that they do not view any of the pictures that are sent and that each photo is deleted and disappears right after it is viewed by the receiver. There has been an extreme amount of speculation into whether this is true or not. When the pictures pass through Snapchat servers who has access to them? If it is ever revealed that Snapchat has storage of all personal and intimate photos it will very quickly lead to the demise of this groundbreaking app.

In addition to the concern about who at Snapchat headquarters is viewing your photos, there is more concern about the actual content of the pictures being taken.  Snapchat is criticized for how it makes sharing personal or private pictures easier. It has been called the perfect way to “sext,” because the viewer cannot view the picture you send any longer than you allow.

I feel like this is a huge concern. Many users feel as if they are free to send whatever they want and it will just simply be deleted. What many users don’t consider is that the recipient of your snap can screenshot your picture, and it will not be deleted. Snapchat should not be thought of as the safe way to send revealing photos. The app gives users a false sense of security.

Should you give it a try?

In spite of all the criticism that Snapchat has received, I feel that it has really strengthened the bond between those who we are closest with. This new app makes this huge world seem just a bit smaller to those who use it in the way that it was intended.

Do you use Snapchat? What kinds of snaps do you send? Are you concerned about your privacy while using it? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Let me know in the comments below!