Snapchat is becoming a search engine

Image: YouTube/Snapchat
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Facebook has spent the better part of a year copying key aspects of Snapchat’s products; now it seems Snapchat is returning the favor. The “camera company“ announced today that it is revamping the way users search for Stories—the daily photos and videos that people and brands post to their accounts—as well as opening up a new advertising revenue stream.

Currently, Snapchat’s search function is only for finding accounts: Users can either select the friends they converse with most, or search by account name for new people to follow. But its new search will allow users to be a bit more esoteric; they can search for accounts to follow or Stories to watch, based on topics ranging from “tacos” to “New York Fashion Week.”

The tweak is good news for both users and advertisers, at least in theory. Users get a new way to find information that’s relevant to them—whether it’s what’s happening at their local bar or at a sporting event across the country—and advertisers could get a new places to display content. While Snapchat isn’t putting ads in search results just yet, it’s easy to imagine the company getting into sponsored stories similar to the sponsored links Google includes in its search results.

Ironically, the new search is relatively similar to Facebook’s. Searching for “tacos” on Facebook, for example, will pull up brands and pages you can like, as well as photos, news, groups, and posts from friends about tacos. On Snapchat, the same search now pulls up every story and account relevant to tacos. That parity means that revamping search could also help Snapchat pull users’ attention away from Facebook. (It also means Facebook can’t steal the functionality, because in this case it already has it.)

Unlike Stories found in Snapchat Discover, which are compiled by human editors, the new search results are automatically curated. Searches will be carried out by a machine-learning system that looks at the text in Snaps, as well as when and where they’re posted, to discern if they’re relevant to what a user is searching for, a Snapchat spokesperson told Quartz.

The new search will roll out for users in some parts of the US today. Snapchat didn’t comment on when it would be more widely available.