Economy & Politics

Photo platform emulates Chinese super apps

Snapchat wants to break new ground. Photo: AFP / DENIS CHARLET

Snapchat grew up with auto-disappearing photos. Now, with 229 million users, especially young users, the service also wants to become a platform for digital commerce.

Venice – The photo platform Snapchat opens up to services from other providers and thus follows the example of Chinese super apps like WeChat, in which users can do most of their digital everyday life. With the “Minis” function, stripped-down versions of other apps can be integrated directly into Snapchat. With the first applications presented, you can buy cinema tickets and create flash cards, among other things.

Chinese apps like WeChat and Tencent – a major shareholder of Snapchat – are making billions of dollars in fees for other vendors’ businesses on their platforms. However, Snapchat is currently not planning any such levies.

In another innovation that could bring new advertising sales, Snapchat will in future display information about cafes, restaurants and shops on the map integrated in the app. So far, the card was mainly used to see the whereabouts of friends.

Snapchat Apple and Google are also keen to compete with so-called augmented reality (AR), in which digital content is integrated on the screen in real environments. After the first fun applications such as virtual masks or cat whiskers, Snapchat built a business platform with which you can try on sneakers on the display or get an impression of the color of the cosmetics on your face.

At a partner conference on Thursday, Snap showed off its expanded arsenal for app developers in the field. This includes the “Local Lenses” function, in which entire streets are scanned in 3D to enable experiences in augmented reality based on these models.

With the “Scan” function, objects in front of the camera are recognized and information about them is shown. Google built a similar visual search engine with its “Lens” offering. Snapchat, on the other hand, does not do everything itself, but serves as a platform for various specialized services. Various apps can integrate the functions of the Snapchat camera – and at the same time combine them with their own algorithms for machine learning.

With the “Dynamic Lenses” function, developers can integrate information from their apps in real time. This could be interesting if, in addition to smartphones, there are also AR glasses in which digital content is projected onto the glasses. According to media reports, Apple is working on it, among other things. The iPhone group has also been using AR applications for years.

Snapchat was originally popular with young users in particular with the idea of ​​making viewed photos disappear on their own. Snapchat has since recovered from a slump in growth, among other things due to the competition from Instagram and a poorly received redesign of the app. In the past quarter, the daily number of users rose to 229 million – with a significant increase of 11 million users.


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