More than 60 million photos or messages are sent each day through an app called Snapchat and then, after they are viewed for a few seconds, the missives vanish.
That disappearing act — and a volume that is over a tenth of the well-established Facebook's — has made the tiny start-up a technology hit, amassing millions of users and the backing of some of the most respected names in Silicon Valley, Snapchat is being embraced as an antidote to a world where nearly every feeling, celebration and life moment is captured to be shared, logged, liked, commented on, stored, searched and sold.
For people who don't want to worry about unflattering pictures coming back to haunt them, the app's appeal seems obvious.
Many young people are growing tired of the polished profiles and the advertising come-ons of Facebook , recent surveys have shown.
Moreover, young Facebook users are becoming acutely aware of the permanence of the content shared through the Web — and its repercussions later in life. "It became clear how awful social media is," said one of Snapchat's founders, Evan Spiegel, 22.
The Snapchat service , which started two years ago but has steadily gained users, has been painted as a popular way for people, especially teenagers, to send naughty pictures. But Spiegel and his cofounder , Bobby Murphy, 24, say Snapchat is gaining traction for more than R-rated exchanges.
Mr. Murphy describes the service "a digital version of passing notes in class."