Hold off on criticising Snapchat's $25bn IPO - it may be a Facebook, rather than a Twitter

Emma Haslett
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A man looks silly in a pair of sunglasses
Snapchat Spectacles: silly, but coveted (Source: Spectacles.com)

Reports of a potential (but secret) IPO by Snapchat yesterday brought out the usual round of dot com bubble comparisons.

It’s hardly surprising: if the rumours are true, the social messaging app could be valued at as much as $25bn (£20bn), making it the third-largest IPO ever, after Alibaba and Facebook.

This, from a company built on teenagers who came for the disappearing pictures feature (and all the NSFW implications of that), but stayed for the filters, which allow users to transform themselves into dogs, or cats, or just people with really, really great skin.

It was inevitable words like “overvalued” would be bandied about - after all, the same was said of Facebook and Twitter when they went public.

Spectacles will provide a first-person view of the world

Facebook has proven the naysayers wrong, with shares more than quadrupling since its IPO. Twitter is another story - having gone through several chief executives and experienced halting user growth since its IPO, its shares are currently a little over two-thirds of the $26 it first listed at.

So will Snapchat be a Facebook or a Twitter? With stiff competition from the likes of (Facebook-owned - go figure) Instagram, which has all but duplicated its popular Stories feature, the early indications aren’t good.

But there are also signs of innovation, a trait which has kept Facebook in investors’ good books over the years. Its Discover feature is allowing publishers to reach millennial audiences they had been unable to snare via traditional means - a feature which, if done well, could present a sizeable opportunity.

And now its parent company, Snap, Inc, has launched the almost comically millennial Spectacles. The $130 pair of sunglasses allows the wearer to take a 10-second “Snap” from their own perspective, just by tapping them.

Feeding millennials’ narcissism was always going to be a money-spinner - but Spectacles’ most appealing quality is their scarcity: no pairs were sent to reviewers, and they are only available from a single yellow Snapbot vending machine, which is popping up in secret locations across the US. Pairs have appeared on Ebay with a Buy it Now value of $2,000. If that’s not proof it can keep users interested, it’s hard to say what is.

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