Why Snapchat might just win the augmented reality wars

The sheen seems to have come off Snapchat. For a while, the messaging app once associated with teens and sexting promised to become the next Facebook, engulfing both how we chat and how we consume media. But since parent company Snap Inc.’s IPO in March, its stock price has slipped precipitously. Their novel and interesting camera glasses generated a burst of hype, but barely sold 40,000 units. Most threateningly of all, Instagram Stories, which copied the format of disappearing short form video, has now surpassed Snapchat in both users and growth — and all this in just a year. Suddenly, far from being the next Facebook, Snapchat looks more like Twitter: a popular service struggling to grow and even remain viable.

But the company is not giving up. Snapchat is now getting significantly increased capabilities related to location. With a new feature called Context Cards, users will be able to not only share their location with friends, but the app will connect to other services like Foursquare, Lyft, and Open Table to allow them to research restaurants, call a ride, or book a table from relevant snaps. Suddenly, Snapchat has the potential to not just be fun, but useful.

It’s a small change, but it also augurs Snapchat’s last, best hope: to become the app in which users do everything from messaging, to watching the news or shows, to now navigating cities and towns to discover things. And the approach, in which apps and services become a key way in which consumers relate to commerce, socializing, or discovery, is not just Snapchat’s goal, but is the impetus driving much of the modern tech world.

In that sense, what tech companies like Snapchat, Facebook,…

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