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Don’t Look Now: Here Come the Disappearing Message Apps

Get ready for a world of expiring photos and vanishing status updates.
Mark Cuban was cleared of insider tranding, but not before his text messages were subpoenaed by the SEC.

Mark Cuban was cleared of insider tranding, but not before his text messages were subpoenaed by the SEC.

At first, people dismissed Snapchat as a frat house fad until it became the next big thing. And now, the concept of disappearing content has found home inside the business world… because Mark Cuban’s text messages got subpoenaed by federal SEC regulators, naturally.

Cuban felt regulators were unfairly interpreting his text messages from months and years before, and Cuban just wished the texts would have disappeared after they had ceased being useful and before they could be used against him. (He was found not guilty of insider trading by a jury in federal court in Dallas).

So Cuban put his development team to work on an app that would serve as an effective enough communication platform to replace SMS text messages but that would also destroy those messages after a certain expiration date.

The result was Cyber Dust, an app that secures communication by deleting it. Cuban and Cyber Dust weren’t the first to find this market niche, nor the last, and now a whole ecosystem of apps are out there built on the notion that text-based communication is best when it’s temporary.

Here’s a quick run-down on the new messaging apps invading the Snapchat space:


Cyber Dust — Mark Cuban’s team decided that the ideal shelf life for a text message on Cyber Dust should be 24 seconds. Easy to use, and no pesky snooping by the feds after the fact.


Tiiny — Created by Kevin Rose of Digg fame, this photo sharing app does two things to ensure long-term privacy without sacrificing the short-term gratification of sharing moments in your social network. 1) It saves the pictures you upload as thumbnails only (212 pixels square), and 2) it deletes them 24 hours after posting. Therefore, it’s called Tiiny because the pictures are tiny, but with an extra “i” for SEO.


Confide — Similar to Cyber Dust, Confide is a text-based app that is billed as your “off-the-record” messenger, and it just got its 2.0 makeover. It has an even greater level of security by only showing a recipient of a message of few words at a time, as a measure to prevent someone from taking a screenshot of the entire message. Cyber Dust only works if you feel like the person you’re chatting with is operating in good faith. With Confide, you can send basically anything to anybody, and they would have no way to prove that you did, theoretically. Perfect for your ultra-paranoid friends or for people who know they’re doing something wrong and are planning ahead about how not to get caught.

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Sobrr — Sort of a combination of Snapchat and Cyber Dust, Sobrr is a social platform that allows users to communicate via photos, text and voice messages, but everything disappears 24 hours after it gets posted. Because life is about being in the moment, man. The target audience appears to be young adults who realize they shouldn’t put their party pictures on Facebook any more, so they can use Sobrr when they are anything but sober.


Facebook’s expiring posts — Yup, Facebook is apparently experimenting with giving users the ability to set an expiration of a post in advance, from anywhere from one hour to seven days. This could save a lot of problems and bring users back to the behemoth by fixing this simple glaring problem.


Facebook’s Slingshot — Not to be confused with the other Slingshot app (for sharing your screen across multiple devices), Facebook’s Slingshot is an app that is basically a Snapchat clone from top to bottom.


Instagram’s Bolt — Not to be confused with the other Bolt app (for free calling on Android made simple), Instagram’s Bolt is basically a clone of Taptalk that allows users to send pictures of videos to friends or contacts, and yes, those images and videos disappear once they’ve been watched. One hitch: currently it’s only available in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa.

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Frankly — The Frankly app is like if Snapchat were designed in South Korea. The tagline: "Gossip with your best friends without getting caught!" 


Wickr — If the Confide app is for “off-the-record” conversations, then Wickr is for “top-secret” messaging with an added layer of password protection and encryption. Wickr just raised another $30 million over the summer, so expect more from this app in this niche of the messaging market down the road. 

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