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Screen shot of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel speaking at Snaphcat Partner Summit on April 4th in Santa Monica

A slew of new updates, features and projects unveiled by Snap Inc. Thursday capture the Santa Monica-based "camera company" in mid-evolution, from a chat platform to a broker of value-added services modeled on China's tech giants.

Why it matters: Snap has faced investor skepticism that its media model of youth-oriented ephemeral photo and video sharing can support an ad business on the scale of Google's or Facebook's. The announcements at the first-ever Snapchat Partner Summit show that Snap intends both to keep growing its ad revenue while building revenue-generating services that users can access across apps and activities to increase engagement with Snap's products.

The details: Snap announced it will launch the Snap Audience Network, which will allow other companies to run "Snap ads" inside their own apps. Snap will allow advertisers to sell ads through its technology, while keeping a cut of the ad revenue.

  • This is a big deal because it would enable Snap to dramatically expand its ad revenue to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook, which have their own ad networks.
  • Yes, but: It's not set to launch for several months, and details of the ad targeting's workings were scant, as Recode's Kurt Wagner notes.

Snap also announced major updates for developers and its camera, and rolled out a new gaming platform as well as a slate of original shows.

  • Camera updates: Snap said it is updating its augmented reality (AR) studio, called the Lens Studio, to include more capabilities for users to create AR videos. It also introduced new camera search capabilities for users to search for items that they point at with their Snapchat camera. (Snapchat added camera search for Amazon products last year.)
  • Snap Kit (developer platform) updates: Snapchat announced new capabilities and partnerships within its Snap Kit, including the ability for Snapchat users to create "Stories" (strings of pictures and videos) that can be sent to other apps, like Tinder.
  • It is also making it possible for users to use Snapchat "Bitmojis" (cartoon avatars) in other apps, like Fitbit. And it's allowing outside developers from popular apps, like Netflix and VSCO, to design and build custom Snap filters and links that can be shared from their own apps into Snapchat for users to send to their friends.

Originals and content: As Axios previously reported, Snapchat debuted a new slate of original programming and announced the renewal of several shows. It said it would launch a new daily afternoon news show with Buzzfeed.

Snap Games: Snapchat introduced a brand new gaming platform called "Snap Games" that, beginning Thursday, will allow users to play real-time, multiplayer games with their friends.

  • Snapchat announced a slew of new original and third-party games from big gaming developers like Game Closure, PikPok, Spry Fox, Zeptolab, and Zynga. It said it is launching a new ad experience in games so all that "our (developer) partners can see monetization from day one."
  • Sources say the company is hopeful that gaming could provide Snapchat with an opportunity to take a cut of in-game purchases in the future.

Be smart: Tencent, one of China's biggest gaming companies, purchased a 10% stake in the company in 2017, which sources say have helped guide Snapchat's foray into gaming.

The big picture: The event comes just days after Apple announced a suite of new software services, including a new gaming platform, and after Google unveiled its new cloud gaming service, Stadia.

The bottom line: Tech giants are rushing to create better software to increase user engagement with their software and to make money off of things like payments, advertising and storage.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker