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 24 hours, before it disappears. And Snapchat's Discover feature showcases short-form vertical videos from brands such as The Daily Mail, Mashable, and Cosmopolitan.
Snapchat has 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 has 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 were developers 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.
In September 2016, Snapchat Inc. was restructured as Snap Inc., with the Snapchat app as a product. In 2017, Snap announced its IPO under the trading symbol SNAP and raised $30 billion on the first day of trading. In the same year, the company launched Spectacles, sunglasses with built-in cameras that could record a 10-second video.
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.
Snapchat announced in November 2020 that it would pay $1,000,000 per day to viral video creators until the end of the year, under a new promotion called Snapchat Spotlight.
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 messages, stories that last 24 hours, video 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. The app introduced video snaps on May 1, 2014. Video snaps were originally limited to 10 seconds or less; the time limit was later raised to 60 seconds. The video snaps feature was removed completely in May 2017.
Stories are posts that last for 24 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 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.
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's stated focus on increasing revenue streams and introducing augmented reality applications.
Bitstrips was a Canadian media and technology company known for creating Bitmoji, an app which allowed users to create personalized avatars and stickers for messaging apps. Snap Inc. announced it had acquired Bitstrips in July 2016, assimilating the Bitmoji service into Snapchat and shutting down the Bitstrips' existing comic service. Snap later disclosed that it paid $64.2 to purchase the company.
Snap acquired social mapping startup Zenly on June 22, 2017, before introducing the Snap Map feature to Snapchat. The acquisition, reported to cost between $250 and $350 million (including $213.3 million in cash), 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.
Looksery was purchased by Snap in August 2016 for $79.4 million, with $71.2 million in retention bonuses. The "selfie" animation app's acquisition was used by Snap in the form of its Lenses feature, which allows users to place filters over themselves and others using facial recognition technology.
Vurb, a mobile search company focused on helping consumers find local activities and make plans with friends, was also purchased by Snap in August 2016. The acquisition cost $114.5 million, and integrated into Snapchat in the form of context cards in Snapchat's search function.
Snap acquired Voisey, a U.K. music overlay startup 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 is expected to introduce audio remixing tools into Snapchat's newest Spotlight feature, to compete with Tiktok's Duets and Instagram's Remix Reels features.
Ariel AI, a London-based artificial intelligence startup focused on augmented reality, was acquired by Snap on January 27, 2021. 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 has stated that Ariel AI's team will join Snap and focus on geometry, semantics, and camera field-of-view modeling.
Snap announced March 17, 2021 that it acquired Fit Analytics, for an undisclosed amount. 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's shopping platform. The purchase is expected to function as an added revenue stream for Snap, although the social media company has not commented on how it plans to integrate Fit Analytics' tools.
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