Snapchat on a screen

Snapchat source code leaked online, company reports decline in users

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Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, has been forced to issue a takedown request after its source code was reportedly leaked online before the company announced its second quarter earnings report.

The company submitted a request to GitHub, the world’s largest software development platform, stating that the source code for the popular app’s source code had been leaked and uploaded to Github, and demanding that it was taken down.

“SNAPCHAT SOURCE CODE […] WAS LEAKED AND A USER HAS PUT IT IN THIS GITHUB [repository]. THERE IS NO URL TO POINT TO [the original source] BECAUSE SNAP INC. DOESN’T PUBLISH IT PUBLICLY,” the Snap representative wrote, using capital letters to write much of the request. “WE WOULD APPRECIATE YOU TAKE DOWN THE WHOLE THING.

“THIS SHOULD BE REMOVED BECAUSE IT IS ALL LEAKED SOURCE CODE.”

Source code is written in readable text (rather than binary), and lays out the actions to be performed by a computer executing the code. Most companies do not make their source code public.

While the leaked source code is thought to have been incomplete and possibly outdated, Snap was keen to quickly have it removed in order to minimise the risk of theft of trade secrets. Snap filed the takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalises the production and distribution of means to circumvent copyright protections and increases penalties for online copyright infringement while exempting internet service providers and other intermediaries from liability.

GitHub later disabled access to the repository, which was uploaded by a user believed to be based in Pakistan, who last week directed a Tweet at Snapchat announcing that they would “deploy source code” imminently.

In a statement, a Snap spokesperson said: “An iOS update in May exposed a small amount of our source code and we were able to identify the mistake and rectify it immediately. We discovered that some of this code had been posted online and it has been subsequently removed. This did not compromise our application and had no impact on our community.”

Meanwhile, Snap has reported a growth in earnings, but its first ever drop in daily users during its second quarter. Snap reported $262m (£204m) revenue during the second quarter of 2018, and a narrower loss per share than expected.

It has blamed an unpopular redesign of the Snapchat app released in November 2017 for this fall in users. Three million daily users (equivalent to 2 per cent compared to the first quarter) deserted the platform, bringing their total daily users to 188 million. The redesign was intended to make Snapchat appealing more as an advertising platform by separating publishers’ posts from friends’ posts, but was criticised heavily by users. A Change.org petition requesting that Snapchat reverse the design collected nearly 1.3 million supporters. In response to mounting community anger, Snap altered the design.

“It has been approximately six months since we broadly rolled out the redesign of our application, and we have been working hard to iterate and improve Snapchat based on the feedback from our community,” said Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, during a call with investors.

“We feel that we have now addressed the biggest frustrations we’ve heard and are eager to make more progress on the tremendous opportunity we now have to show more of the right content to the right people.”

Snapchat also faces competition from Facebook-owned Instagram, which announced in June that almost twice as many people use its ‘story feature – a now-widespread feature which originated with Snapchat, allowing users to post photos or short videos public which disappear after 24 hours – than Snapchat’s story feature. Facebook recently reported disappointing second-quarter earnings, leading to the largest ever single-day drop in market value as nearly $120bn (£93bn) was wiped off Facebook’s value.

In June, Snapchat opened up to developers with the launch of Snap Kit, a development kit with a focus on privacy. Among other features, the kit allows for login to other apps using a Snapchat account, in what was interpreted as a challenge to Facebook.

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