Snapchat’s launching a new live sharing functionality that will enable users to share their location, in real time, with chosen connections via the Snap Map.
As you can see in these screenshots, the new Live Location option enables you to share your location with a chosen friend, or friends, for 15 minutes, an hour or 8 hours at a time, providing a direct way to enable them to keep tabs on where you’re at. Live location is displayed in your private chat window with your chosen connection, with a timer at the top of the map display counting down the sharing time.
To be clear, Snap users have been able to share their location in Snap Map since the map function was launched back in 2017, which provides a general indicator of where you are while you’re logged in to the app. But this new option is more specific, enabling more granular tracking of a user’s real-time movements in the app.
Which sounds slightly concerning, right?
Well, yes and no.
For one, users will have the option to pause location tracking without sending a notification at any time, so there are privacy considerations built-in. The function is also, logically, switched off by default, while you also can’t share your real-time location with all of your Snap friends at once, only your chosen connections, one-by-one, via each friend’s profile.
The concept is envisioned as a means to keep young people, in particular, safe. Snap has partnered with It’s On Us, a nonprofit which is focused on stopping campus sexual assault, for the launch of the option, and the hope is that by enabling Snap users to share their location in the app as they make their way back home, or back to their dorm, the added security of having chosen friends track their steps will help to improve personal security.
Which could be hugely beneficial, especially given the widespread usage of Snap among younger audiences.
But there are also risks. Domineering partners could force their significant other to share their location in the app, and if you do let the wrong person track your whereabouts, that could, of course, be problematic.
Snap’s hoping to avoid such by giving users control over who can see their activity, but there are potential side effects that could see it used in a negative way.
I guess, these risks are outweighed by the potential benefits. There are also, of course, other apps available that provide tracking options like this, but they would not be as readily accessible as Snap, which many people already have on their devices.
Time will tell if this gets used in a negative way, but conceptually, it should help to provide a means for people to keep tabs on their vulnerable friends, and ensure they get home safe.
Snap users will be able to activate Live Location via friends’ profiles in the app, where you’ll be able to choose how long each specific friend will be able to see your location.
Meta Announces WhatsApp Cloud API to Provide Hosting Support for SMBs
After previewing the option back in 2020, today, at its first-ever ‘Conversations’ messaging conference, Meta has announced that it’s launching the WhatsApp Cloud API, which will provide free, secure cloud hosting services for businesses.
As it sounds, the WhatsApp Cloud API will essentially host your conversation data on Meta’s servers, which will improve connection and speed, but will come with a degree of privacy trade-off.
The main benefits will be improved speed in messaging response, while it’ll also help to eliminate server expenses, which could be a big benefit to smaller businesses, in particular. It’ll also facilitate faster access to new WhatsApp business features as they become available.
The downside is that it will mean more reliance on Meta, while you’ll also need to dilute WhatsApp’s messaging security measures:
As Meta described in its original announcement:
“If a business chooses to use a third-party vendor to operate the WhatsApp Business API on their behalf, we do not consider that to be end-to-end encrypted since the business you are messaging has chosen to give a third-party vendor access to those messages. This will also be the case if that third-party vendor is Facebook.”
As such, WhatsApp will include new notifications on consumer-to-business exchanges conducted through Meta hosting.
How you feel about such trade-offs will come down to your personal perspective, but the offering could be highly valuable for smaller businesses looking to build out their tech stack, without having to sign on to a third-party hosting vendor, or buy their own hardware.
But again, that does also mean increasing your reliance on Meta, which has notoriously changed the rules on businesses in the past, leaving many in the lurch.
The real benefit, however, will likely be in developing regions, where WhatsApp is the dominant messaging platform, and many small businesses are looking for ways to maximize their reach and transactions in-app. If Meta can assist them in building their business, that could be a big step in making WhatsApp a more critical utility, for many more users, while also, eventually, providing a direct revenue pathway for the messaging platform.
Though it does feel like a bit of a honey trap. Meta has already flagged that it will eventually introduce charges for these additional elements, without specifically outlining what those costs will be. Once businesses are reliant on such, it’ll be too late to back out, and Meta could ensnare them via incremental increases, that may eventually become a big earner for the company.
On another front, Meta also announced Recurring Notifications on Messenger, which will enable businesses to re-engage people within a messaging thread. The feature is only available to premium users at present, which doesn’t cost more to be part of right now, but will in future as Meta looks to incorporate new charges for its messaging and hosting tools.
You can check out replays of the Conversations conference presentations here.
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