Snap Inc recently released a new feature to their popular messaging app Snapchat. This new feature allows their users to bring up a map in the app and see what is going on anywhere in the world. This feature is called Snap Map, and while it is already being met with criticism, being called a privacy threat, it’s actually a pretty big deal.
I first started using Snap Map late last week. To my surprise the team at Snap Inc decided to send out a tutorial snap explaining how to use the new feature. When I first began using it it seemed very similar to their Discovery feature, which essentially lets you see curated stories from stuff going on around you. Actually, it seems like the stories you’d normally see in the Discovery area have now been moved onto to the map and out of the list.
However after I got my bearings I soon realized that I could pan around the map and instead of being able to view stories local to me I could view stories at events happening in a completely different country. In the past I could occasionally view certain stories but it was usually reserved for major events or protests.
Snap Map could have ended there and it would have been a welcome addition to Snapchat. They took it one step further though by adding a heatmap overlay on the map. This allows you to see areas on the map with a lot of stories, if you are interested in seeing what is going on simply tap on that spot on the map and it will load the snaps. Last night I watched someone in northern Canada splitting wood and watching some guys in India goofing around and dancing. This is what makes this feature killer and why it’s a big deal.
Snap Map Is The New News Feed
Social networks have been around since the internet was a niche product. They started out as online bulletin boards which then evolved into chat rooms. The chat room evolved into Friendster which turned into MySpace which was consumed by Facebook. Along the way as technology advanced the medium for sharing changed. In the beginning you could only share text, which then evolved into images, and today you are able to go live on Facebook and possibly witness a clown murderer.
Facebook does a great job letting you share images and silly political rhetoric with your friends. The things you post on Facebook tend to be less candid and a bit more serious. Compare that to Snapchat which takes a less serious tone, unsurprisingly the app that was created to share nudie pics attracted more silly and candid behavior. Facebook is like a photo album, you only want to share the good parts because that’s how you want to be remembered. Snapchat has no concept of history, it lets you live in the moment and so it’s more akin to what happens in between each picture you share on Facebook.
Remember how I mentioned I was able to watch some person in northern Canada splitting wood? That was the moment I realized that this feature was a game changer. I am very much a progressive Bernie Bro, and I tend to surround myself with people that are similar to me. This gives me a completely distorted view on reality. The same can be said for a die hard Trumpette. Neither of us really understands the other one, but now with Snap Map we sort of can.
If Snap Map can gain traction I think it’s going to make the world that much smaller. Now if I want to see what is going on in Mongolia I can simply open the map, tap on Mongolia, and suddenly I can see what people are up to. Likewise if I want to know what is going on in Alabama or North Carolina I can do that too. This is the new news feed.
It Finally Offers Discoverability
The major pain point of Snapchat was how difficult it was to discover interesting people to follow on the platform. They made it slightly easier with Snap Codes but it still required you to know about that person from a different platform such as YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter. While it doesn’t currently seem possible, Snap Map could easily extend the ability to follow users and see their public Snaps in your stories timeline.
So why is this a big deal? Well right now Snapchat doesn’t generate a ton of revenue. Well, it’s reported that they could reach $1 billion in revenue in 2017, so they do generate revenue, just not as much as their competition. However if they are able to give creators a legitimate way to build a following and can build in a partner program similar to YouTube, they could grow their revenue and users by a lot (yes, I know, very scientific).
So Snap Map is a really cool feature. If you haven’t used it yet, open the app, pinch the camera (like you are zooming out), and you should see it expand out to a map. From there swipe around and explore the world, it’s realer than Facebook and for some people it might be as real as it gets. With any luck Snap Map will be the next News Feed and bring the world closer together.