Snap Inc. was originally founded as Snapchat Inc. in September 2011. The company's name was changed to Snap Inc. in September 2016. Snap Inc. launched its social media and camera app Snapchat in September 2011. The precursor of the Snapchat app, Picaboo, was released shortly before this in July 2011 until it was replaced by Snapchat in September and the company was officially founded. Snap Inc. has also created Spectacles, which are smart-glasses that can take Snapchat videos, and Snap Camera, which allows Mac and PC users to use Snapchat's facial lenses on different video chat programs like Zoom and Skype.
On March 1, 2017, Snap Inc. announced its IPO and raised $3.4 billion. It began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 2, 2017, under the symbol SNAP.
Snapchat is a social media and camera app used to send ephemeral photos and messages to other users. Users can send photos, videos, and messages to other users in the form of "snaps," make audio and video calls, and more. Snapchat was originally only for sending pictures, with the ability to add captions for text communication. Picture snaps are sent with a set time limit of between 1-10 seconds, chosen by the sender. Snaps are designed to disappear after the receiver opens them. Various updates since the app's conception have made it possible to "replay" opened photo and video snaps, as well as view photo snaps for longer periods of time. It has always been possible to unofficially "save" snaps by screenshotting or screen-recording them, but the user who sent the snap is notified. Snapchat's Chat 1.0 app update in 2014 released a text chat feature between users. Messages can be saved by tapping on them in the chat; by default, messages disappear after the user views them and exits the screen.
In February 2023, Snap launched My AI, an experimental chatbot exclusively available to subscribers of Snapchat+, the app's premium subscription that costs $3.99 a month. My AI is initially rolling out to US customers with plans to make the chatbot available to all Snapchat users, according to CEO Evan Spiegel, who stated:
The big idea is that in addition to talking to our friends and family every day, we’re going to talk to AI every day... And this is something we’re well positioned to do as a messaging service.
Snapchat says My AI runs on the latest version of OpenAI's GPT technology, customized for Snapchat. Snap is one of OpenAI's first clients using its new enterprise tier called Foundry. Spiegel has said the company will likely incorporate language models from other vendors over time as well as OpenAI. At launch, the chatbot can be seen as a fast, mobile-friendly version of ChatGPT running inside Snapchat. Users can have conversations with My AI, asking it simple questions, and generate content such as gift ideas or trip itineraries. Snapchat describes My AI as a "personal sidekick," and users can give the chatbot a nickname. The new chatbot will be pinned to the top of Snapchat's chat tab.
My AI has more restrictions than ChatGPT, with Snap employees training the chatbot to adhere to the company's trust and safety guidelines. Snap says My AI is still prone to hallucination and may be tricked into generating inconsistent or incorrect responses. In the announcement of My AI, the company stated mistakes may occur that provide incorrect or biased answers, particularly during its early release. Users can send feedback by long pressing on any response from My AI. All AI conversations will be stored and may be reviewed to improve the model's performance.
Snap Inc. has acquired a substantial number of companies since its founding in 2011, with the majority serving as intellectual property acquisitions for services added to the Snapchat platform. Recent acquisitions have been focused on augmented reality technology companies and retail analytics organizations, which highlights Snap Inc.'s stated focus on increasing revenue streams and introducing augmented reality applications.
AddLive is a company that creates web browser video technology. AddLive states that it "allows companies to quickly deploy real-time communications with minimal development time." It was reported on May 2, 2014 that Snap Inc. had acquired the company several months prior for an undisclosed amount. AddLive's technology was likely used to develop Snapchat's video calling feature that had just been released.
Snap Inc. acquired Vergence Labs for $15 million in December 2014. Vergence Labs creates glass frames for video recording glasses, similar to Google Glass and Snap Inc.'s Spectacles, which were not yet released at this point in time.
Scan was a QR code scanning app acquired by Snap Inc. in December 2014. The acquisition absorbed Scan into Snap Inc. and shut down their independent website, which allowed users to create and download QR codes. The deal reportedly involved paying Scan $14 million in cash, $3 million in restricted stock units, and $33 million in Class B common Snap stock for a total of $50 million.
Looksery was purchased by Snap Inc. in September 2015 for $79.4 million, with $71.2 million in retention bonuses for a total of $150.6 million. The "selfie" animation app was used in the form of Snapchat's Lenses feature, which allows users to place filters over themselves and others using facial recognition technology.
Bitstrips was a Canadian media and technology company known for creating Bitmoji, an app that allowed users to create personalized avatars and stickers for messaging apps. Snap Inc. announced it had acquired Bitstrips in March 2016, assimilating the Bitmoji service into Snapchat and shutting down the Bitstrips' existing comic service. Snap later disclosed that it acquired the company for $64.2 million.
Seene, otherwise known as Obvious Engineering, is a 3D model photo app that scans real life images and creates 3D augmented reality versions of them. In June 2016, it was reported that Snap Inc. had acquired the company a few months previously for an undisclosed amount. This company's acquisition was yet another producer of 3D and augmented reality software that helped to develop Snapchat's lenses feature.
Vurb, a mobile search company focused on helping consumers find local activities and make plans with friends, was purchased by Snap Inc. in August 2016. The acquisition cost $114.5 million, and integrated into Snapchat in the form of context cards in Snapchat's search function.
Flite was acquired by Snap Inc. in December 2016 for an undisclosed amount. Flite produces video software intended for use in ads such as 360º angle videos and vertical ads specifically designed for mobile phones.
Cimagine Media is an augmented reality company that creates software for users to visualize online retail products in their homes by overlaying a 3D virtual image of the product onto the user's camera screen. It was acquired by Snap Inc. in December 2016 for somewhere around $35 million.
Snap Inc. acquired Ctrl Me Robotics on May 27, 2017 for purportedly less than $1 million. Ctrl Me Robotics fitted drones to hold cameras. Snap Inc.'s drone technology has been in development for several years. In March 2021, it was announced that Snap Inc. was continuing development on a selfie drone.
Placed, a location-based analytic and ad measurement company, was acquired by Snap Inc. on June 5, 2017 for $135.1 million in cash. Placed's software helped develop Snapchat's Snap to Store feature, which uses Snapchat users' location data to track visitations to business locations. More specifically, when Snapchat users apply business-sponsored geofilters to snaps, Snap to Store tracks if those user's friends on the app subsequently visited the business based on their phone location data.
Snap acquired social mapping startup Zenly for $213.3 million on June 21, 2017, before introducing the Snap Map feature to Snapchat. The acquisition added Zenly's existing back-end and graphic interface to Snapchat's interface, with the exception of only showing a user's location when they open the app.
Strong.codes was a startup that makes website codes more secure and harder to copy or steal. Snap Inc. acquired the company on July 21, 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Snap Inc. purportedly bought the company in order to safeguard their Snapchat code in response to many app features being similarly copied by other large competing companies like Facebook and Instagram. Strong.codes was closed after Snap Inc.'s acquisition.
PlayCanvas is a London-based company that has created an open-source game and interactive application engine. The company was acquired by Snap Inc. for an undisclosed amount on March 28, 2018. PlayCanvas's application engine supports browser-run virtual reality effects.
Snap Inc. acquired Teleport Future Technologies on December 10, 2018 for $8 million. The company created Teleport, an app that could realistically change hair color on users' selfies.
AI Factory, a Ukraine-based artificial intelligence video company was acquired by Snap Inc. for $166 million on January 3, 2020. AI Factory's video technology, called Cameos, allowed users to take a "selfie" and animate it into a video.
Snap Inc. acquired Voca.ai on November 11, 2020 for a reported $70 million. Voca.ai was an Israel-based startup that created custom virtual voice assistants for businesses such as call centers. In early 2020, Voca.ai notably helped to create a COVID-19 audio diagnostic test in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University called the COVID Voice Detector. It is likely that Voca.ai's voice technology was used to continue developing the Snapchat app's Voice Scan feature, which was first introduced in a limited capacity in 2018 but greatly expanded with an update in June 2020. Voice Scan enables users to search and find available photo lenses by using voice commands. Users can speak in general terms (e.g., "hair color") to search for lenses matching the request.
Snap Inc. acquired Voisey, a U.K. music overlay startup, for an undisclosed amount on November 19, 2020. The Voisey platform allowed users to overlay short music tracks over their own audio, and add audio filters such as auto-tune or auto-harmony to create remixed audio content. The acquisition led to the development of Snapchat's Remix feature, which was released in October 2021. The Remix feature allows Snapchat users to record "response" video snaps to a friend's video snap, in which the response video is recorded on the same screen as the friend's sent video snap. Snapchat's Remix feature compares to TikTok's Duets and Instagram's Remix Reels.
StreetCred was a New York City startup focused on building a platform for location data. Snap Inc. acquired the company on January 11, 2021 for an undisclosed amount. StreetCred's initial goal was to decentralize location data by building a blockchain marketplace.
Ariel AI, a London-based artificial intelligence startup focused on augmented reality, was acquired by Snap Inc. on January 26, 2021 for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition has been reported as another push by Snap to integrate real-time 3D human perception augmentation into the Snapchat platform. The company has produced software capable of rendering 3D human models in real time, allowing users to virtually try on clothes. Snap Inc. stated that Ariel AI's team will join Snap Inc. and focus on geometry, semantics, and camera field-of-view modeling.
Snap announced March 17, 2021 that it acquired Fit Analytics for $124.4 million. Fit Analytics is a Berlin-based startup that develops shopping and marketing technology used to find properly sized apparel and footwear from online retailers. Aside from Fit Analytics' personalized shopping technology, the company offers commerce and marketing analytics tools targeted at retailers looking to increase sales. The acquisition adds a substantial e-commerce technology team to Snap Inc., and both companies have confirmed Fit Analytics will continue to operate its existing platform while building out Snap Inc.'s shopping platform. The purchase is expected to function as an added revenue stream for Snap Inc., although the social media company has not commented on how it plans to integrate Fit Analytics' tools.
Snap Inc. acquired Pixel8earth for $7.6 million in April 2021. Pixel8earth was a startup from Boulder, Colorado. Its 3D mapping technology was utilized for developing Snapchat's Snap Map feature. Through the acquisition, Pixel8earth's team was absorbed into Snap Inc.'s map and augmented reality teams.
On May 21, 2021, Snap Inc. acquired WaveOptics for more than $500 million. WaveOptics is Snap Inc.'s supplier of augmented reality displays for their line of Spectacles. WaveOptics creates waveguide displays for AR wearables.
Snap Inc. acquired Vertebrae on July 19, 2021, for an undisclosed amount. Vertebrae is a company that creates augmented reality 3D versions of retail company's products. This technology gives potential customers the ability to view what the object would look like in their room, or on themselves in the cases of clothing or makeup. Snapchat utilized this technology in a collaboration with Gucci that allowed users to "try on" a virtual pair of real Gucci sneakers through one of the app's many photo effect lenses.