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Snapchat, a product of Snap Inc., is a free image messaging application and augmented reality platform.

Official Snapchat logo

Snapchat, a product of Snap Inc., is a free image messaging application headquartered in Venice, California. Photos sent through the app are only available for a certain amount of time (decided by the sender) before they disappear. There is also an instant messaging interface, which allows users to send messages, photos, and money. Users can decorate their photos with filters, stickers, and augmented reality objects. Snapchat's Stories platform enables users to share a photo with all of their contacts for twenty-four hours, before it disappears. Snapchat's Discover feature showcases short-form vertical videos from brands such as The Daily Mail, Mashable, and Cosmopolitan.

Snapchat had approximately 265 million daily active users, as of December 2020. Snap generates nearly all of its revenue from advertising, with 88% coming from the US. According to the company's year-end report, over 90% of the US Gen Z population had watched Shows and publisher content on the platform in the fourth quarter of 2020.


Snapchat was launched as Picaboo, an app exclusively for iOS, in July 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown, and Bobby Murphy while they were students at Stanford University. It was rebranded as Snapchat in November of that year. In 2012, video snaps were introduced to the platform, and a version of the app was released for Android.

During 2014, Snapchat refused offers of acquisition, including offers from Facebook. In the same year, Snapchat introduced video chat and acquired AddLive and Vergence Labs. In the case of Vergence Labs, the acquisition was for $15 million in cash and stocks. Vergence Labs was the developer of Epiphany Eyewear and a mobile application, Scan. Snapchat also reached an agreement with the FTC following misinterpretations on storage of user data and the accessibility of their "expired" messages.

Analytics and marketing data app Annie announced in December 2019 that Snapchat was the fifth most downloaded mobile app of the 2010s, based on iOS and Android download figures.

On November 23, 2020, Snapchat announced the introduction of Spotlight, a feature that allows users to post public short videos—the company's alternative to TikTok and Instagram Reels. The service did not include advertisements at launch, but is expected to introduce them in the future. Spotlight will not include public comments, in contrast to competing services.


Snapchat hosts a number of functions for users and brands to share content, including disappearing photos, direct messaging chat, stories that last twenty-four hours, video and audio chat, and more.


Photos or videos sent through Snapchat are called "snaps" and are designed to disappear once they have been opened. Snaps can be edited with captions, drawings, and filters, and senders can choose the duration of time they can be viewed before their posts disappear. Users can replay received snaps once, and while it is possible to screenshot snaps using their phone, the sender is notified. Video snaps were introduced on December 14, 2012 and could be recorded for up to ten seconds. On July 18, 2017 the time limit was raised to sixty seconds, with each ten-second interval of the recorded video sent as its own separate snap as opposed to a single seamless recording; this feature was called Multi-Snaps. Snapchat support now refers to this feature as Long Snap, and Multi Snap now refers to a new feature that allows users to take multiple pictures and videos in the same "session" and review and edit them individually.

Audio and video calls

Snapchat introduced video calls on May 1, 2014. The video call feature was first only able to be initiated when both users were in the chat window. Calls were made by holding down the blue video button for a few seconds, at which point the caller's video would automatically fill the chat screen on both users' screens. Users receiving the call could either opt into the call with video or just listen to the caller. Originally to keep the call active, the user was required to press and hold their finger on the screen; letting up on the screen ended the call. The front and rear facing cameras were able to be switched between during calls by swiping up and down on the screen, all while still holding a finger on the screen.

Snapchat's Chat 2.0 app update on March 29, 2016 removed the need to continuously hold the screen to keep the call going. The video function can now be turned on and off by tapping the green camera button, and the front and rear cameras can be swapped by either pressing the camera swap icon or double tapping the screen. Additionally, the app update allowed users to send messages, pictures, and stickers while video chatting. The update also introduced audio calls, and enabled users to call friends even without that user being active on the chat screen.

On April 3, 2018, Snapchat enabled group calling. Video calls can be made with up to fifteen friends for a total of sixteen users, and audio calls can be made with up to thirty-one friends for a total of thirty-two users.


The text chat feature enables users to send direct messages to friends within the app. Snapchat first introduced this feature on May 1, 2014. By default, the messages are ephemeral and self-destructing, and are erased after the user exits the chat page. Messages can easily be saved, however, by tapping the message in the chat, which then highlights the message in light gray. Messages from both the sender and recipient user can be saved. Stickers and photos from users' camera rolls were able to be sent in text chats after app updates in 2016.


Stories are posts that last for twenty-four hours and can be published to a user's profile, restricted lists of friends, or public location-based galleries. Stories were introduced in October 2013, and by June 2014 surpassed direct snaps in views to become the most frequently used function of the app. The Stories function surpassed one billion views per day in 2014. Snapchat incorporated a Live Stories feature that allows users to share photos and videos for public viewing.

Snapchat's Official Stories section was added in November 2015, allowing users to follow public figures and influencers. The application later added a Discover section that contains ad-supported content from publishers and advertisers, charging over $50,000 per ad per day, and has become the largest revenue-producer for Snapchat.


The Snapchat Lens feature was introduced in September 2015, giving users the ability to use real-time effects that utilize face detection technology. The feature expanded in April 2017 with World Lens, adding the ability for users to put 3D rendered objects or characters into their videos and photos using augmented reality technology.

The company released its Lens Studio in December 2017, a design studio used to create augmented reality (AR) lenses for the application. The studio gives individual users and advertisers the ability to create filters and lenses using two-and three-dimensional designs. While individuals are limited to World Lens filters, advertisers are allowed to create face filters and purchase ad slots to publish them on Snapchat.

The Information reported early 2021 that Snapchat is considering incorporating Snapchat Lens into their newest generation of Spectacles—smart-glasses capable of taking and sending snaps. The report states that Snap Inc. is developing the newest Spectacles to fully incorporate AR Lens technology, offering consumers a new way to use and publish Snapchat's lens filters and interact with augmented reality.

Snap Map
Image of Snap Map

Snap Map is a geolocation feature released by Snapchat in June 2017. Snap Map is a separate section of the app that allows users to share their location and publish area-based stories, using Bitmojis as location markers. The feature was developed using intellectual property Snapchat acquired after purchasing social media map app Zenly. Map data for Snap Map is provided by OpenStreetMap and Mapbox, with DigitalGlobe providing satellite imagery.


April 29, 2021
Snapchat launches its first Indian Snap Game, Ludo Club, its own version of popular board game Ludo, in partnership with Moonfrog Labs.
December 10, 2020
Snapchat announces $3.5M fund to expand support for creators and developers.
November 23, 2020
Snapchat launches Spotlight, a viral-video service intended to compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels.
May 14, 2020
Snapchat adds new conversation features for public figures.
March 19, 2020
Snapchat announces its Here For You service, a mental health feature released in response to the coronavirus pandemic, earlier than its originally intended April launch date.
April 26, 2018
Snapchat launches Spectacles V2 at $150.
June 2, 2017
Snapchat introduces Snap Map, a map display that allows users to share their location and see public location-based stories.
January 28, 2015
Snapchat introduces Discover, a section of the app containing ad-supported channels from major publishers and notable figures.
November 2, 2014
Snapchat introduces Snapcash, an in-app money transfer feature powered by Square.
October 2014
Snapchat introduces the My Story feature, allowing users to publish pubic and semi-public snaps which last for 24 hours.



Further reading


How does Snapchat work and what's the point?

Maggie Tillman


April 6, 2020

How to Use Snapchat: A Guide for Beginners

Christina Newberry


January 10, 2018

Snapchat is developing its own take on TikTok Duets with a new 'Remix' feature

Sarah Perez


March 25, 2021

Documentaries, videos and podcasts





October 13, 2021
Popular social media app Snapchat went down globally on Wednesday evening and several users were unable to post story updates or send messages
Lata Jha
September 25, 2021
Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat has announced its latest local original--a sports reality show titled 100% with Shayamal, featuring sports scientist, Shayamal Vallabhjee. It premieres on 25 September.
Alex Heath
August 26, 2021
The Verge
Snapchat's camera is becoming a visual search engine with a feature called Scan. It's also a new way to discover AR Lenses based on what you're looking at.
July 29, 2021
The Indian Express
Snapchat has introduced new Lenses to celebrate Friendship Day, which will allow users to share moments with their friends. Here's how to use.
Amanda Silberling
July 28, 2021
As more people are venturing out into the world this summer (safely, we hope!), Snapchat wants to make it easier for people to find restaurants, stores, parks, and other interesting spots in their neighborhood. Today, Snapchat is starting to roll out the My Places feature on its Snap Map, which connects users with over 30 [...]


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