Snap Map is now available outside of the Snapchat app. As of Monday, the map is accessible in web browsers, meaning that you don’t need to be a Snapchat user to view public snaps. All of the content on the Snap Map can be embedded, effectively transforming an overlooked gimmick into a massive media repository.
When Snapchat first introduced Snap Map in June 2017, the feature was met with skeptical reception, derided as useless, creepy, or, in a more complementary fashion, as the smartphone version of Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. For the uninitiated, Snap Map is a pretty simple feature; it shows you a geographic display of all the snaps that users have shared with the public and displays your Snapchat friends’ locations when they open the app.
Most early critiques of Snap Map focused on privacy concerns. Although you can change preferences so your location isn’t displayed, there’s something weird about having constant surveillance be the default setting for an app that was founded on the idea of ephemeral communication. But these concerns might be missing the innovative nature of Snap Map: it’s not a tool for spying, but a window into the experiences of a certain group of people, at a certain time, in a certain place.
In the eight months since Snap Map has been around, its utility was restricted, because you could only access it on your smartphone app. Now, the web version of Snap Map allows you to look around the entire globe, and investigate popular events by looking for heat signatures. When many people are posting snaps from one area, the web platform version of Snap Map will turn red. When a few people are posting snaps, it turns blue. Even if there isn’t a high concentration of snaps available in a particular region, you can still click around and see any snapchats that were shared there.
When there’s a bunch of people uploading Snapchats about a high-profile event, Snap Map displays these posts in a single story. For example, if you’re looking at the Snap Map of Manhattan, you can select at a story documenting New York Fashion Week, or the Westminster Dog Show.
Additionally, you can select a sparsely populated region in the middle of South Dakota, and experience a drive down a barren stretch of road.
The new Snap Map format is an exciting tool, especially for voyeurs and journalists, mostly because it displays a wide range of content with very little curation. Any Snapchat user can upload a snap (just add a snapchat to “Our Story”), and the sheer volume of video ends up providing viewers with a fairly robust experience of a geographical region.
This is particularly true in times when many people focus their attention on a single thing, like the Super Bowl, or a natural disaster. For example, Snap Map helped convey the reality of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, because it provided a comprehensive view of the flooding in places like Houston from people that were there. Snap Map gave them a way to share their experience in a coherent format and helped others get a sense of what was happening.
You can watch a video demonstration of how to navigate Snap Map below.