Rise of Snapchat: Do you want an erasable Internet?

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As Google’s share price soars beyond $1,100, it seems like nothing can stop the Internet juggernaut as its land grab strategies continue to win over the eyes of its users and the wallets of its advertising clients.

But an analysis published over the weekend by The Wall Street Journal’s Farhad Manjoo raises an interesting question surrounding a new business model that could someday lead to Google’s downfall. Do we want an erasable Internet?


Companies like Google and Facebook have built an Internet based on permanence. You send messages, search for things, share status updates, post photos, visit places, and so on, and these companies store all of that data and use it to make money. Oversimplified though it may be, this explanation of Google and Facebook’s businesses explain why the idea of a product like Snapchat is extremely dangerous for these companies.

In a nutshell, Snapchat is the polar opposite of Google and Facebook. Your data isn’t saved and used to sell ads — it is erased almost immediately, never to be seen again. And so Manjoo poses an extremely important question: “Do we want to live on that Erasable Internet, the Snapchat Internet, instead of the Internet built by Facebook and Google?”

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If Snapchat’s model proliferates to other areas of communication and to the Internet in general, it could lead to some serious problems for companies like Google and Facebook, which have business models that rely entirely on saving as much data as possible about their users and serving targeted advertisements based on that data. If that data doesn’t exist, how will Google and Facebook convince their customers that their ads are more targeted than those served up by their competitors?

Today, it seems like nothing can kill Google. Its search engine is the most widely used on the planet by a massive margin and its lead in the mobile arena with Android seems insurmountable. Facebook has a similarly dominant position in the social networking space in most regions. But no company stays on top forever, of course, and the emerging demand for services that minimize our exposure and erase the messages, photos, videos, locations and other info we post could be the first shot that leads to the eventual downfall of the permanent Internet.

And unless they adapt and rebuild their businesses from the ground up, the toppling of the permanent Internet could certainly take Google and Facebook down with it.