Billy Rafael, Arts & Entertainment Editor

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which may be the reason for all the hype around the new smartphone application Snapchat. If you’ve ever seen someone using their phone and randomly holding a strange face for a few seconds, they may have just been taking a “snap” of themselves. Available to iPhone and Android users, Snapchat lets you send pictures to your friends that they can only see for a predetermined amount of seconds, from one to 10.

It’s a pretty clever concept. Once their finger clicks the message notification, the time begins to count down, and the picture is only on the screen when the screen is being touched.

The first question most people ask when they hear about how Snapchat works is how they avoid people taking screenshots, and while it’s not impossible to take one, the designers have put in several measures to deter it. Having to keep your finger on the screen to have the photo displayed makes configuring your hand to take a screenshot difficult, and if the buttons are not hit perfectly in sync you will end up with a picture of your menu. In addition, if someone tries to take a screenshot of a photo you sent, whether they are successful or not, you will get a notification that they tried.

So what are people using Snapchat for? What secret, time-sensitive photos are people sending each other?

Honestly, just a lot of selfies and weird faces. The ability to add text makes it essentially the same as picture messaging without having to fill up your phone’s memory. Parental concern lies in the thought that an app like this might encourage “sexting” but the non-airtight privacy features discourage this, and Snapchat declares in their privacy policy that, “messages are sent at the risk of the user.”

According to its blog, Snapchat hit a landmark last month after the billionth photo was sent over the application since its release four months ago, and there are few signs of slowing down. Over 20 million photos are being shared on Snapchat daily.

The app’s success is following in the footsteps of Instagram, the popular image sharing website that allows users to add filters to their photos and their friends to like them, much like Facebook or Twitter without text. There seems to be a cultural shift toward communicating through pictures. People are wanting more and more to share every aspect of their day with all of their friends, whether it be where they’re at, who they’re with or what they’re doing. Snapchat follows in these footsteps, yet allows a more personal experience. By not immortalizing the photo on the Internet for the world to see they are taking measures to protect the user’s privacy.

Not everyone who tries Snapchat falls in love with it. There are many out there that fail to see the purpose, and chalk it up as another social media fad destined to dissipate like those before it. While it is unknown whether Snapchat’s appeal will last, there’s no sense getting worked up over it. Just enjoy that absurdity of seeing which of your friends can make the ugliest face.