Shopping and Snapchat could soon be synonymous. As originally reported by TechCrunch, the popular social media platform is experimenting with a new visual search feature called “Eagle.” App researcher Ishan Agarwal was the first to notice the Snapchat code in the Android version of the app, and has previously been the tipster behind a number of other app features, including Instagram’s video calling app, Focus portrait mode, and others.
With Eagle, if you take a photo of a product or its bar code, the Agarwal-discovered code initially suggested that you would be redirected to Amazon, where you’d have the option of purchasing said product. However, since that initial report, it would appear that all mentions of Amazon have been scrubbed from the code, so it’s not entirely clear where you’ll be redirected to make purchases (if at all).
Agarwal discovered the new feature when poking around the app’s Android code, which details a “Visual Search” feature. The description notes, “Press and hold to identify an object, song, bar code, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.” Now the description no longer includes Amazon.
While Snapchat may have started off as nothing more than a way for friends to share ephemeral moments with one another, it soon turned into an attempt at a revenue-generating machine, one that has fallen off in recent months, especially with increasing competition from rival Instagram. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app has copied many of Snapchat’s more popular features, like Stories, and has managed to attract a larger user base. This, in turn, has made it more difficult for Snapchat to make money, which has certainly concerned its investors.
But with its new Eagle function, the app could be turning things around. If Snapchat is able to work out an affiliate deal with a retailer — which is to say, get a cut of all sales generated by a photo sent through the app — that could represent a significant new revenue stream.
Snapchat has indicated several times throughout the year that it is harboring a growing interest in visual search. Earlier this year, the company reportedly engaged in talks to acquire machine vision startup Blippar. While these negotiations ultimately fell through, it comes as little surprise that Snapchat is now trying to chart its own course in the field. We’ll just have to see what comes of its latest efforts.
Updated on July 22: All mentions of Amazon have been scrubbed from the Eagle code.