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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says Maps are part of the company’s secret sauce. Photo: Snap Maps

Snapchat has seen nearly 40% growth in Stories submissions since launching Snap Maps, Axios has learned. The Venice Beach company believes that Maps are a part of a tool set that empowers users to get creative and express themselves, which CEO Evan Spiegel thinks will drive the company to compete with rivals Facebook and Instagram in the long-term.

Why it matters: Investors have been concerned about Snapchat's value proposition ever since Instagram successfully launched a rival Stories feature last summer, which put a dent in Snap's user growth. But Snapchat thinks it can take on Instagram and its parent company Facebook with user engagement — spurred by camera creativity — which creates more opportunities for advertisers.

Early engagement success through Maps, where users can upload and share content from around the world in seconds, suggests they are on the right track. "We fundamentally believe that by empowering self expression for everyone, we will grow our business," Spiegel said Monday at the Vanity Fair Establishment Summit.

By the numbers:

  • Snapchat expects over a trillion Snaps to be sent this year — roughly 3 billion per day, with daily active users opening the app 20 times per day.
  • Sixty percent of its daily users create content on the platform daily, and more than one third of daily users engage with Snapchat's augmented reality technology — putting Snapchat far ahead of both Apple and Facebook in AR use. By comparison, Facebook has seen a decline in page engagement.
  • p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.8px Arial; color: #222222; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; background-color: #ffffff} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} In Q2, users under 25 spent more than 40 minutes per day on the app and users 25 and over spent more than 20 minutes per day on the app. By comparison, Instagram users under 25 spend 32 minutes per day on the app, and users over 25 spend 24 minutes a day on the app.

The bottom line: Spiegel thinks this is Snap's secret sauce. "One of the challenges we see on other services ... is you start with this layer of judgment rather than your own experience," he said. "I think that can be really limiting because it's almost paralyzing to think that anything you create is going to be judged by millions and millions of people."

"You have to build a new system that empowers people to express themselves. And that system has to be free of the judgment that I think many people experience today ... Instead of having creativity be controlled by a few people, it democratizes and opens up the ability for the individual to be creative."

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
6 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.