Snapchat, the app that lets you send photos and videos which supposedly are deleted shortly after you view them, is all the rage right now. It’s particularly popular among teenagers and young adults. Snapchat claims more than 5 million people use it every day to send more than 200 million photos and videos.
Assuming you’re already familiar with Snapchat, you might remember this post I wrote back in June about an Android app that captures your Snapchats and saves them indefinitely to your Gallery. Some Snapchat users use apps like that to take advantage of a loophole in how photos and displayed and saved. It’s completely covert to the person who sent you a Snap, and doesn’t leave the “Screenshot” notification in their feed. I point this out because it’s the beginning of an answer to a question we hear a lot: do my Snapchats really disappear?
The answer is, yes and no. Yes, they “disappear” if you’re a non-technical user, but no, they aren’t actually deleted.
Here’s a technical explanation. When you receive a new Snap, the photo is downloaded and saved to your phone as a .JPG file, just like any other photo or image. Once you tap and hold to view, Snapchat displays the photo until the countdown reaches zero, at which point it changes the file extension of the photo from .JPG to .NOMEDIA. It doesn’t actually delete the photo, it just makes it invalid to view. If you had root access and spent enough time digging through your phone’s file system, you could extract the .NOMEDIA files and change them all back to .JPGs and voila!
It goes without saying that a safer, more secure way to handle images would be to delete them once they expire. Even still, the app I mentioned above captures them while they’re still .JPG images (before you open them), so they can still be saved. The simple truth is, there’s no way around it: your Snaps can always be saved without your knowing.
Snap wisely, my friends.
You should follow Mike on Twitter for more great tech insights and good conversation. Be sure to say hello! You can also keep up with Mike on his personal blog: MikeBeauchamp.me, on Facebook, or on Google+.