Snapchat’s Live Stories, the ephemeral messaging platform’s cohesive stream of big events from around the world, always felt a bit filtered. The sheer number of Snaps in some cities meant Snapchat’s curatorial process resulted in more than a few discarded submissions. But now, the company says it’s found a way to incorporate that content in a sensible way: a new feature called Story Explorer that, in Snapchat’s words, lets you experience Live Story events “from every perspective.”
Story Explorer’s accessible by swiping up on any Snap in a live story, and updates in real time. The content which populates it isn’t curated by Snapchat’s editorial team, but instead determined by an automated system that pulls in the relevant Snaps based on their submission time, location, and other criteria. The infrastructure behind it is reportedly extensive — according to the LA Times, Snapchat’s invested heaily in a video-analyzing computer array dedicated solely to processing Story Explorer uploads.
The idea behind Story Explorer, wrote Snapchat in a blog post, is to provide a window to “multiple angles” — vantage points — of the same event. Sports and news are perhaps the most intuitive applications: you can replay a particularly jaw-dropping NFL touchdown from any number different perspectives, watch a concert from twenty different rows, or instantly get multiple ground-floor views at the scene of breaking stories.
Story Explorer doesn’t necessarily add depth to a medium that remains relatively transient — you’re still only seeing split-second highlights of a given event — and risks becoming a repository for Snaps that didn’t quite make the Live Stories cut. But Snapchat chief Evan Spiegel said it enhances Snapchat’s experiential element: the feeling of “being there,” so to speak. “You want to see it. You want to hear it. Now you can as a thousand different people on the streets of Westwood. That’s really powerful.”
More cynically, though, Story Explorer could bolster Snapchat’s income. Snapchat’s largest single source of revenue is video ads — users view video 6 billion times a day. The more video content, the logic goes, the more opportunities to serve those users advertisements. The Financial Times reports that Snapchat is on track to generate $100 million on an annualized basis, driven by new monetization efforts such as paid photo filters for brands and users. The company’s valued at about $16 billion.
Story Explorer will launch in New York and Los Angeles today, and roll out to other cities and places “soon.”