Around the clock on Thursday, video producers at Snap Inc. sorted through thousands of user-submitted videos on the company's Snapchat app and turned them into a handful of short documentaries.
There were films about SpaceX's historic rocket launch Thursday, a highway bridge collapse in Atlanta and backcountry snow sports across the Northern hemisphere.
Starting Friday, Snapchat users will have access each day to not just a handful, but more than a million similar few-minutes-long documentaries. The app now automatically understands captions and objects in submissions to Snapchat's Our Story feature and analyzes other data such as filming time and location, to sort them into highlight videos without any human curation.
That means users can search for films about their high school's basketball game, puppies around the world, a local bar or a potential vacation destination.
One major thing to keep in mind: The ephemeral videos will feature submissions that are as old as weeks, which is unusual for Snapchat. The app normally deletes a video either after 24 hours or after all recipients have viewed it, which can be up to a month.
Users have to manually select the public-sharing option, otherwise posts remain private to their followers and unavailable in the search.
The new feature — the first significant launch since the company's record-breaking initial public offering March 1 — brings Snapchat more in line with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, all of which are known as places to see what's happening in the world at any given moment. And it could increase the time people spend browsing on Snapchat, which could correlate to more opportunities to show them ads.
However, many of Snapchat's advertisers likely will have reservations about placing ads in the new computer-generated Stories.
Without human intervention, pornography, violence or other potentially unsavory material could makes its way into a film. That's among the reasons Snapchat focused more on curation early on than video rival YouTube. Still, with advertising essentially its entire business, Snapchat is likely to try to find ways to appease advertisers.
Snap shares rose as much as 9 cents, or about 0.4%, shortly after the announcement.
The expanded search functionality also opens a bigger audience for user posts. Previously, posting to Snapchat meant spreading a photo or video to an isolated basket of friends. Now, there's an opportunity for the best users to travel further — though the videos don't credit the submitter by name or result in any compensation.
Snap said the search feature initially will be available in only select U.S. cities, with Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco being likely guesses.