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Reuters/Mike Segar
Putting the pieces together.
SNAP TO IT

Snapchat is getting into search

By Mike Murphy

Among the biggest complaints levied against Snapchat are that the social network is difficult to use and it’s hard to find new things to watch. Snapchat has been working on the former and a new acquisition might help solve the latter.

Snapchat is acquiring Vurb, a mobile search and recommendation app, for about $110 million, according to The Information (paywall). According to the report, the majority of the deal will be in stock, with Vurb’s founder, Bobby Lo, receiving $75 million to stick around Snapchat over the next few years.

The Vurb deal comes a few months after Snapchat acquired Bitstrips, the company behind the popular sticker app Bitmoji, which it also paid about $100 million for. While it’s not entirely clear what Snapchat will do with Vurb, it does seem to suggest that the company is trying to figure out ways to improve the user experience, and keep people engaged with the app for longer. Earlier this year, it overhauled the app’s messaging function, and added more signposting for its confusing user interface.

With Vurb, or at least the talents behind the app, Snapchat could be looking to make it easier to find new users to follow, or content from brands and media outlets. Currently, unless you know someone’s username (or have a picture of their Snapchat-branded QR code), it’s near impossible to find them on the app. Similarly for brands, unless they’re in the “Discover” section of the app, they have to rely on informing people of their snaps through another medium. A Vurb-powered recommendation engine could help address this problem.

Snapchat declined to comment on the acquisition. After turning down a reported $3 billion acquisition bid from Facebook in 2013, Snapchat has been on a tear: It now has over 150 million daily users—millions more than Twitter—and is valued at over $20 billion. But the company is still working on building up an advertising structure to match its impressive user growth. Being able to find more stories to watch, more friends to share snaps with—and therefore more places to insert ads—could well be what Snapchat’s users, and advertisers, will want to see.