Snapchat buys Zenly to show users where their friends are

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If you updated your Snapchat app this week, you would have noticed a new feature called Snap Map. This nifty location-sharing tool allows users to see on a map where their friends are. Apart from that, it also shows what those people are doing, like driving or eating at a restaurant, illustrated by cute little caricatures called Actionmoji.

Sharp-eyed tech bloggers were quick to point how similar this feature looked to Zenly’s map, a cool French startup whose positioning technology we really admire. And in no time it was learnt that Snapchat had quietly scooped up Zenly sometime last month for around $250 million. Hence the similarity!

We, for one, had predicted that something like this would happen when we stumbled upon Zenly last year:

“I’m quite convinced that we will soon hear about a spectacular acquisition of that company. For me, Zenly proves that there Are still a lot things to be improved when it comes to location-based technologies, and you don’t need to be a giant to bring innovation in that space.”

– Aleks Buczkowski, Founder, Geoawesomeness

How Snap Map works

Here’s how Snap Map, powered by Zenly’s technology, works: Firstly, you will need pinch-to-zoom into your main screen to open the Snap Map. Then, you get to opt into by selecting who can see your location – all your friends or a selected few. There’s even a ‘Ghost Mode’ for those times when you don’t want to share your coordinates.

No constant tracking

Like Zenly, Snap Map does not track your location when you are not using the app. Your position will only update once you have opened Snapchat. In fact, if you don’t use the app for a few hours, your location will be removed from the Snap Map.

Heat-map of friends

An interesting feature of Snap Map is that if many Snaps are being taken in one specific area, it alerts the users about the cluster – possibly indicating that an event is happening there. And that’s the whole point of this tool – to connect passive users with their friends and engage them actively.

Snap loves location shopping

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, has been increasingly building new features based on location technology. Earlier this year, ‘Snap to Store’ was introduced allow advertisers to see where Snapchat users go after seeing a sponsored location-based advertisement. And just this month, Snap acquired location analytics firm Placed to show its advertisers how online advertising leads to offline store visits and purchases.

With Instagram Stories copying Snapchat’s main novelty of 24-hour posts, it’s interesting to see Snapchat building distinctive features based on location.