Snapchat overhauled two key features Thursday, bringing it more in line with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as a place to see what's happening in the world at any moment.
In an update soon coming to all users, Snapchat will add a search bar at the top of the app. People can look up friends, media companies, celebrities and other names to get quick access to their latest posts.
Users will also be able to submit videos and photos to the Venice company at any time for possible viewing by every user on the planet. Previously, Snapchat accepted such submissions only from certain preselected places or events such as the Golden Globe Awards or Times Square.
The changes to searching and sharing on one of the world's most popular social media apps lay the foundation for it to become the place millions of people turn to as a first source of information, rather than Google or Twitter.
The new features could eventually work in tandem — with the assistance of artificial intelligence that can identify objects in a video — to allow people to find every publicly shared post from the past day that features, say, an image of Donald Trump.
At the least, the new submission option makes it possible for Snapchat to take advantage of far more user content. The company already curates entries from users into short video diaries about common events and places. But now it won't have to decide beforehand what it will feature. It can create a diary on the fly — and have content from the very beginning of the event — whenever it sees an influx of posts. This could help turn Snapchat into a destination during breaking news events.
Snapchat sells ads that are interspersed in the videos. And the company keeps all the revenue, except in cases in which it partners on the videos with organizations such as the NFL.
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook already have robust options for searching through posts, and they are working to improve curation of watercooler topics. All three represent crucial competition for user and advertiser attention for Snapchat. Snap Inc., the company behind Snapchat, doesn't comment on future plans.