This Message Will Self-Destruct…Snapchat's Vanishing Photos.

FIVE THôT columnist DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite.

When I was young, I loved watching reruns of “Mission: Impossible” on TV. My favorite part was at the beginning of each episode when the mission was transmitted via some sort of recording device before bursting into flames or melting away. 

“This message will self-destruct in five seconds.” I can still hear it.

The modern-day analog is Snapchat, a new mobile app that enables a user to snap a photo or video and send it to one or more friends. Once a recipient views the photo or video, it self-destructs. Literally. The file is deleted forever. 

Goose bumps.

Snapshot itself describes the rationale for the new app as a way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly “selfie” or a video, add a caption, and send it off. Friends receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears.

The images are not high quality (the company says they may be “little grainy”) but the whole idea is to capture the “not ready for primetime” moments in your life that you’d rather not see permanently archived. The founders proudly claim “it's about the moment, a connection between friends, and not just a pretty picture.”

It’s taking off, especially among young people. In fact there’s been more than a billion snaps since the company’s launch late last year. Predictably, there’s a whole lot of sexting going on. But it’s also a great way to joke around, kill time and slay boredom. Even FunnyOrDie is in on the act, which is the clearest indication that Snapchat is the real deal.

It’s so popular, in fact, that Facebook is trying to knock it off with an app called Poke (after trying to buy the company and was rebuffed.) But it’s also an indication of how people are becoming increasingly aware of the power of a personal brand, and the imperative of managing that brand aggressively. Every student facing down graduation and the prospect of finding a job is counseled to clean up Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Tumblr accounts to prevent would-be employers from finding unflattering (or even pornographic) images online.

With Snapchat, young people can capture those funny / embarrassing moments and share them with friends, but never suffer the consequences of a permanent record. All of us at some point or another have regretted drinking too much or behaving badly in public. But in the pre-social-media age, the consequences of youthful misdeeds were typically localized and, over time, relegated to the dustbin of memory.

No more. Everything is permanent. Once something is published on the Web, it never goes away. Youthful indiscretion lives on forever.

The timing, it seems, for self-destructing messages couldn’t be better.

Snapchat Jesus - watch more funny videos 

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