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Only a few months after closing a Series B round of $60 million that valued the ephemeral messaging company at $800 million, Snapchat has been in talks for another funding that values it at up to $3.6 billion, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources also added that the funding itself would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that the lead investor might be a strategic party from Asia.

Such a deal could still fall apart, of course, but the effort has become well known among several Silicon Valley venture firms, who have considered investing.

A spokeswoman for Snapchat declined to comment.

The investor is neither China’s Alibaba Group nor Japan’s Rakuten, which has put a lot of money in Silicon Valley startups of late, said sources. One interesting possibility would be China’s Internet giant Tencent, which makes money from in-app transactions.

The move by the Los Angeles-based company comes on the heels of another massive funding round raised by social scrapbooking company Pinterest, which announced earlier this week that it just raised $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation.

Besides the huge piles of investment dough being poured into them, here’s what else the pair have in common: Little to no revenue.

That does not seem to have stopped a panoply of venture and other investors from jumping in and ponying up with huge amounts of cash for the privilege of investing in several fast-growing startups, hoping to grab ahold of the next Twitter or Facebook early.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has grown wildly popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last for only a matter of seconds.

Snapchat’s last round – which it called a “scaling round” for infrastructure improvements – was announced in late June, led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners and SV Angel. Previous investors Benchmark Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated. With that round, the company had raised around $75 million in total.

Snapchat's Evan Spiegel

Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel

All the fervor has been due to Snapchat’s fast growth and younger demographic. Only a few months ago, co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel boasted that the service had more than 200 million snapped pictures and video taken by its users on a daily basis, up from 150 million just months before. Then in September at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, he said that the number had grown to 350 million self-destructing messages daily.

At the time, there was also an additional $20 million in a secondary offering just four months ago.

At the time of the June funding, in an interview with AllThingsD, Spiegel noted: “We’re excited about in-app transactions because of what we’ve seen in the Asian markets.”

A clue!

Snapchat has clearly been a phenom of late.

Indeed, the app has proved so popular – and potentially worrisome to established social players – that sources said when Spiegel continually rebuffed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition offers, Zuckerberg cloned the app outright with a service called Poke. Zuckerberg’s offering famously flopped, while Snapchat continues to grow.

Most recently, Snapchat has begun to experiment with features outside of its core ephemeral messaging service. The company launched its Stories product last month, essentially a long-form play on Facebook’s status update in the form of a picture or video. And recently, Spiegel has grown more keen on the idea of monetization, experimenting with bands and listening to music inside the app.

The company, however, has not been without its problems. Early on in its history, Snapchat had to fight the perception that it was a “sexting service” for tweens, a fly-by-night app used to easily spread lewd photos. And it is still involved in ongoing litigation with Frank Brown, a collaborator from the service’s early days, who is suing the company he was pushed out of.

photo

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.

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