At the back end of last week, photo-messaging platform Snapchat unveiled its latest new feature in a bid to retain and build its user base.
The Snap Map was introduced as part of the latest update of the app on Wednesday, and was announced by the company in its blog. In the post, Snapchat says the feature offers a whole new way for users to explore the world by finding friends, seeing what’s happening in the area and setting users up for an adventure.
To access the feature, once the app has been updated, zooming out when on camera mode will take you to the Snap Map. On a user’s first visit, there is the option to select which setting they wish to use.
The feature includes three main settings that allows users to select whether their location is available to their entire friends list, only to selected friends, or to no-one at all. The latter is known as Ghost Mode and it will not reveal any location status unless manually switched on by the user.
As well as simply tracking friends, the map acts as an alternative way for users to interact with the platform. Users can add snaps to the public stories of popular events and view them from the map, as well as privately messaging friends should they see that they are in the same area and want to meet up. It may also come in handy to avoid particular people you do not want to bump into unexpectedly.
The Snap Map is powered by technology from social map app Zenly, which has been acquired by Snapchat in a deal that was kept relatively out of the public eye. Industry insiders believe that this deal was completed at the end of May and was worth somewhere between $250m-$350m (£196m-£275m) in cash and company shares.
However, a number of people have voiced their concerns over the new feature, as the location tracking software is incredibly accurate. It can track a user’s exact location, with people being able to zoom through a town, street and pinpoint an exact house or building that the user is in. The default setting for this feature is Ghost Mode, so in order for the app to track and display a users’ location, it must first have been enabled. Furthermore, the Snap Map only updates the location of the user when they open the app, so it is not completely real time. This particular function ensures that there is some privacy, as well as saving battery on the user’s device.
The Snap Map will continue to put Snapchat in competition with Facebook, which has a similar feature in the form of its Live Location function. However, while Facebook wants to build relationships with acquaintances and other people users are not really close with, Snapchat aims to focus on the friends that users can’t cope without.
Snapchat hopes that this feature will positively transform the app after being outdone at its own game by Instagram with its Stories feature. Instagram Stories sees 250 million daily users in comparison to Snapchat Stories’ 166 million daily users. As well as the numbers, Snapchat views the Snap Map as a way to build the app as a communications platform that influences offline communication as well as online content.