Could Google or Tencent Beat Facebook to Buying Snapchat?

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Right now, Snapchat is having its “belle of the ball” moment.

The mobile messaging service – which lets users exchange photos and video that disappear after a few seconds – is being courted by Facebook. It has long been an app that CEO Mark Zuckerberg lusted after.

Thursday afternoon brought another turn of the screw. Valleywag reported that Google could also possibly be considering taking a run at Snapchat, matching Facebook’s $3 billion to $3.5 billion offer. Google and Facebook aren’t commenting, but sources said that Google has indeed expressed some interest in a deal. Tencent, the Chinese consumer Internet company, has also been eyeballing the company, according to sources.

I don’t know Snapchat’s fate, and from what I’ve been told, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel himself is unsure of it. But it got me thinking – whether they’re in the running or not, which companies are most likely to go after the fast-growing Snapchat?

Let’s go down the list.

Facebook:
Zuckerberg wants Snapchat bad. So bad, in fact, that he tried – and failed – to clone the app outright. Sources familiar with the matter have described the Facebook CEO as “obsessed” with Snapchat and the idea of ephemeral messaging. They told AllThingsD that he has made multiple offers to acquire the company, some for more than the $1 billion he paid for Instagram last year.

Likelihood: Very High

Google:
Google may have Google+, but it knows it can’t hold a candle to Facebook or even Twitter when it comes to social mobile apps. Buying Snapchat could give Google immediate overnight relevance in social, while simultaneously dealing a blow to Facebook. Not to mention that $3 billion is a pittance for the highly profitable company to spend on an acquisition.

Likelihood: High

Tencent:
This is a good fit. Spiegel has described Tencent as a “role model” for Snapchat in terms of revenue models – potentially alluding to in-app purchasing possibilities for the startup.

And Tencent is indeed interested – if not in a full acquisition, then at the very least in a large strategic investment.

Likelihood: Very High

Yahoo:
A dark horse, and at this point not an entrant as far as I’ve heard. Still, CEO Marissa Mayer has the cash to make the deal, and is no stranger to acquisitions. Plus, an acquisition of Snapchat could help to both bolster Yahoo’s mobile efforts – which are lacking – and burnish its less-than-cool image – sort of like buying Tumblr did.

Still, there’s no evidence to my knowledge that Yahoo has approached Spiegel or Snapchat about a potential acquisition.

Likelihood: Unlikely

Twitter:
After long considering killing off its direct-messaging feature entirely, Twitter woke up last year and figured out that people actually love sending private messages. Another satellite app acquisition – similar to the one it did with Vine – could make sense.

Problem is, the figures being thrown around for Snapchat now are way out of Twitter’s price range. They’re nearly double the amount the company just raised in its initial public offering. At this point, Snapchat is far too rich for Twitter’s blood.

Likelihood: Not at all likely

A caveat to many of the past week’s stories on this topic: It’s possible – if not likely – that the escalating prices and number of companies involved is largely due to jockeying from Snapchat insiders who stand to make hundreds of millions on the deal. Read each new report with that in mind.

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Another thing to remember: Spiegel intends to raise yet another round of funding for his company at a hefty valuation. If another round goes through, there will likely be a secondary component to it, in which Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy could sell some of their own shares and cash out. That means the two could still continue to go for broke and build out their own company rather than sell to the highest bidder, while having the insurance of already having taken some money off the table. And according to multiple people close to Snapchat, Spiegel and Murphy very much want to build out the startup into a full-fledged company.

Bottom line: If Snapchat keeps growing – and sources said that is indeed the case – Spiegel isn’t under the gun to make a decision today. If all goes well, his acquisition offers – and the high prices they command – likely won’t disappear.

Snapchat And The Beauty Of Ephemeral Photography And Fleeting Creativity

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Traditionally photography is about preserving a moment in time; you take a picture literally because it’ll last longer. The entire art is built around a quest for permanence, and archival desires. But with Snapchat, you’re casting off those things you photograph almost as soon as you take the picture – in many cases it’s less permanent than just continuing to look at something. For an avid hobbyist photographer, it’s somewhat counterintuitive, but also very liberating.

Part of the appeal of Snapchat seems to be that people don’t have to be too concerned about how they take a photo; the communication is more important here, and since no one’s framing any of your pictures, there’s no reason to sweat composition, lighting or anything else. But I do find myself thinking about those things, resulting in an entirely different kind of art compared to traditional, camera-based photography.

Taking photos for Snapchat is, in many ways, much more about audience than traditional photography is. You’re creating a moment for another person specifically in most cases, and you’ve got constraints including your immediate environs, a limited smartphone camera and a camera interface that’s simple to the point of being like a blunt instrument, even compared to the stock iPhone camera app. Best of all, you’re creating for momentary consumption; the photo has to convey what you need it to in a very brief window of time.

But the best part is the absence of pretense around taking these photos. The snaps aren’t trying to be something they’re not; they’re pictures, and all the fun and the art is uncomplicated by questions of legacy, or of long-lasting quality and memorability. You’re making something without having to worry about how making that thing will potentially cast you in the eyes of history. Not that most people are consciously thinking about what kind of museums their work will appear in later, or how it will be judged by future generations, but the act of capturing, writing down or recording something is deeply entangled with those concerns, conscious or not.

Being free of that allows for more genuine enjoyment – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. comes close to describing how that feels in his novel Galapagos when he talks about the narrator writing the book you’re reading with this finger, in the air: In other words, taking a very long view reveals that both Snapchat and traditional photographic tools are equally ephemeral, as both are of no consequence on a cosmic scale. But having that temporariness brought home and made understandable makes all the difference.

We’re strongly conditioned to believe that if you’re going to make something, it’s worth making something that will last. But Snapchat is a good reminder that sometimes, it’s just fine to make something fleeting, too.

Snapchat Spurned $3 Billion Acquisition Offer from Facebook

Snapchat, a rapidly growing messaging service, recently spurned an all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook for $3 billion or more, according to people briefed on the matter. The offer, and rebuff, came as Snapchat is being wooed by other investors and potential acquirers. Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent Holdings had offered to lead an investment that would value two-year-old Snapchat at $4 billion.

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