Image messaging titan Snapchat recently acquired a social networking app called Vurb for 110 million dollars, with an additional 75 to keep on their CEO.  While you may not have heard of it, it has gained critical acclaim for the way it operates both as a search engine and as communicative tool.

While it’s too soon to know exactly how Snapchat plans on implementing Vurb’s code, it is almost certain that a search feature is coming to Snapchat.  The image app already uses geotagging software in order to allow users to alter their images, ranging from site-specific lenses (read: filters) and stickers that correspond with the user’s location, to crowdsourcing eyewitness accounts of life in cities and vacation spots all over the world.  Allowing users to check other users’ stories by location is a logical next step.

So, while this is just the latest company Snapchat has acquired in its quest to rival, or even surpass, social media’s most profitable, it’s worth checking out how to use an app that really wants you to know it’s like Google.

(Seriously.  The Google comparison shows up in at least three articles on the official Vurb press list.)

snapchat acquires vurb

Vurb in action

Vurb’s search function and interface are simple.  Follow these steps to use it effectively.

1) Enter your search term into the bar at the top of the app’s home screen.  While it doesn’t hurt to be specific, the app’s support for context means you can get just as clear results from a more general inquiry.  This will mostly depend on the population density of where you are.

2) Adjust your parameters.  The app allows users to narrow their search based on how close to them their target is, how expensive it is and whether or no the location is currently open.  Again, much of this relies on population density, and local economic engagement.  A major metropolitan area is much more likely to house a location to satisfy your one-o’clock-Thursday-morning sushi cravings than a near-by suburb.

3) Save your finds.  Vurb allows users to retain interesting or favorable results from searches for later.  It does this by generating an informational ‘card’, which states things like place name, address and hours, as well as Yelp scores.  These cards are collated into ‘decks’, for ease of re-finding.

4) Grab your friends.  Vurb, using your smartphone contacts and a messaging system similar to Facebook’s or WhatsApp, lets you text these cards to your friends, to help you plan a night out with minimal difficulty.

Vurb it on

Vurb is, first and foremost, willing to bet you’re looking for somewhere to eat.

This app embodies a genuinely elegant concept: a search engine that works primarily off a map.  The notion that you would start looking for things in your immediate vicinity is seemingly so obvious, it is genuinely impressive that it took a specialized program to implement and streamline the process.

Vurb is at its most useful when you are looking for somewhere new, or to compromise with your friends on what you’re going to do on an evening out.  If you and your buddies want to experiment with some Thai food before you head to the movies, this app is ideal.  If you just want to meet up for a quiet dinner at your favorite Indian place, not so much.
Either way, Snapchat’s latest acquisition is an important hint at the imagined future of their business model.  This latest purchase could mean sweeping changes for the type of content they host and the content produced by their corporate partners.

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