What's another multi-million dollar acquisition, anyway? According to a report, Snapchat is buying Vurb, a smartphone search and home screen app. And much like Snapchat's interface itself, this decision is not exactly obvious.
This news broke yesterday on The Information (opens in new tab), and its Jessica E. Lessin and Tom Dotan report that not only is Snapchat throwing down a cool $110 million for the app, it's paying 'nearly as much' for additional team retention payouts. So not only does Snapchat want Vurb the app, it also values the creators' potential.
But how is a search app more valuable than Bitmoji (bought by Snapchat for $100 milion) and almost as valuable as the face-altering filters (which came from Ukranian startup Looksery), which cost Snapchat $150 million?
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The clearest reason I can see is that the Vurb could help Snapchat be easier to use. Looking at Vurb, you can see it's built around finding and showing things to users in a clear and informative way, sort of like Google Now.
As a frequent user of Snapchat, I can't begin to explain how many times I've had to show people how to find features in the app, and have those people say "well that's dumb, why is that there?" after I've shown it to them. Changing to a more upfront layout and design may make it easier for new users to keep using Snapchat, instead of forgetting about the app after deciding it's too confusing.
Another possibility is that Snapchat may be looking to become the hub of your digital life, more than just the first app that you open after unlocking your screen. In a similar way to how Google's Gboard keyboard let users find search results and GIFs to drop in chats without opening new apps, Vurb's ride-hailing integrations with Lyft and Uber mean you don't need to open those apps to call a ride.
Vurb's integration could also help make Snapchat the new way users plan nights out. Not only does it pull in ratings from both Foursquare and Yelp to enable better meal hunting, but it also packs in scores from IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, to help direct you to a decent film. If you'd rather stay in, Vurb can let you stream movies from Amazon or find the right flick for an evening of Netflix and Chill.
These potential synergies could be driving Snapchat's purchase of Vurb, especially if it's leadership is dissatisfied with how soon users leave its app after sifting through the day's stories. Snapchat is looking to lean more heavily into news content, and it probably helps that the Vurb home screen presents links to the trending topics of the day.
While the deal has yet to be completed, we can already see how this acquisition will make Snapchat a bigger part of our digital lives.