Good morning, Quartz readers!
This week it emerged that Snapchat, the picture messaging app widely considered impenetrable to anyone older than about 17, now has more daily users than Twitter.
This milestone isn’t as meaningful as it might seem. Yes, it’s noteworthy that a five-year-old startup has sprinted past one of the founding fathers of social media—a whole 10 years old—on one key measure. It’s also further evidence of Twitter’s gradual stagnation. But while they’re both often called “social media,” only Twitter truly fits that description. It is for sharing news and information publicly, for shouting opinions from the rooftops.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is still primarily a messaging app (though media outlets recently began using it as a publishing platform). It’s up against the Facebook Messengers and WhatApps of the world. And in terms of daily users, those services are much bigger. That’s why Snapchat dramatically changed its interface in March to better compete with them.
To see the real significance of Snapchat’s growth, look at the closely watched internet trends report this week from venture capitalist Mary Meeker. She pointed to a generational shift in communicating: Millennials use text, but Generation Z prefers images. And, she observed, more photos per day are shared on Snapchat than on any other app.
The ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s messages may have been what first attracted its mischievous young users, but it’s beginning to make inroads with a more adult set. And while basic things like adding friends can be maddeningly unintuitive, the fact that the app opens directly to the camera makes its central function completely clear. Snapchat’s success is based on its mastery of the language we increasingly prefer: that of the image.—Matt Quinn
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