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How to use — and how to keep yourself hidden from — Snapchat’s new Maps feature

Snap Maps is cool, but hard to find.


For a mapping feature, Snap Maps is not very easy to locate.

But if you do manage to find it — we can help with that — Snapchat’s latest innovation, which came out a few weeks ago, will show you where your friends are in real time and what other events may be going on around your city or state.

The map was built by Snapchat with the help of mapping technology from a San Francisco startup called MapBox, and resembles the product from another location-sharing startup called Zenly, a Benchmark-backed startup that Snapchat recently acquired.

The point of the map: Find your friends and see what they’re up to, or browse posts from strangers who are sharing publicly from around the globe. (Periscope offers something similar for looking in on its users’ live broadcasts.) If sharing your location sounds creepy, you change your settings to ensure that you’re only visible to friends, or not visible at all. (In fact, Snapchat’s location-sharing is turned off by default.)

Snapchat has argued that its user growth, which appears to have slowed over the past year, is tethered to the company’s product improvements. That means that launching creative and innovative products, like Snap Map, should spur growth — and keep Facebook and Instagram at bay, at least until they can replicate the product to catch up.

How do you use Snap Map? And how do you ensure your location stays private? Here’s a little tutorial.

Where is Snap Map?

Snap Map is not well marked; you have to know where to look. Open the app’s camera, which should be the landing page, place two fingers on the screen and pinch them together. This should pull up the map.


What am I looking at now?

This map should show a few things:

  • Your friends who are sharing their location — they will appear as their Bitmoji avatar.
  • Some popular events or locations where you can look at public videos or photos shared by strangers. These are indicated by a small magnifying glass with an image inside.
  • A heat map that shows areas where there are a lot of people posting publicly to Snapchat.

Will I appear on this map?

Only if you want to. Your location-sharing is turned off by default, but you can click on the settings icon in the upper right-hand corner to share your location with your Snapchat friends, or manually choose a group of close friends to share your whereabouts with. Snap will not update your location when the app is not open. If you don’t open the app for around eight hours, your avatar will disappear from the map until you open it up again.

Will my snaps appear on this map?

Again, only if you want them to, and if you happen to be picked by Snapchat’s algorithm. The Snaps that appear on the map are only those that are shared to “Our Story,” which is Snapchat’s public collections of videos and images that are usually centered around a specific event or location. Videos or photos shared to “Our Story” could appear on the map, but Snapchat is using an automated algorithm to pick and choose which ones appear. Regardless, those Snaps disappear after 24 hours, just like other posts on Snapchat.

Are there ads on this map?

No. At least not yet. But you could imagine a promoted event or location appearing here at some point down the line.

Why is this map so hard to find?

Good question. We don’t know but imagine that could change down the line.

Why did Snapchat do this?

It’s not meant to be a utility the way that, say, Facebook’s friend location feature is. It’s less about helping you get from point A to point B and more about helping users see what other stuff is going on around them and adding context around what their friends are doing.

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