Snapchat is building out its location and search capabilities with the launch of Snap Map – a product that will let it combine the timely and often newsworthy nature of Snaps with its carefully cultivated intimacy and ephemerality.
First up, the tool will allow the app's 158 million users to share their location with friends within the app. However, it will also let them surface public content from specific locations from non-friends. The latter element is useful because it will give Snapchatters the power to discover images and photos from specific events like concerts or sports events that are happening near them and around the world.
In March Snapchat added a search function to the Stories section of its app which made it easier for users to discover publicly shared Snaps, and the latest update builds on this.
Writing in a blog, Snap said it had "built a whole new way to explore the world," and sought to assuage users with privacy concerns, explaining that they can opt out of sharing their whereabouts with friends by selecting 'Ghost Mode'. Stories shared between friends will not appear on the map, just those shared to the Our Story platform, which enables the sharing of Stories with a broader audience.
"In a lot of ways, we're taking what a map is and turning it upside down," Jack Brody, a product designer at Snap, told Refinery29. "This map isn't about where am I, it's about where are my friends and what are they up to? It's not about figuring out how to get to your destination, but about discovering where you want to go."
It could also eventually pave the way for Snap to earn more money by getting users to watch more Stories, the stitched together chronological photo and video streams the app slots ads in between.