TechCrunch reports that the new feature is designed for speed, encouraging you to find what you need and continue sharing photos, videos and contributing to Stories. Hit the search button and the "Quick Chat" menu will display the people you interact with the most, allowing you to instantly start messaging them or see if they've recently posted a Story. Tapping and holding your finger on that card will show their profile.
The search bar connects to Discover channels and can index Our Stories based on to their title. The idea is to deliver new content past the suggestions Snapchat offers on a particular day, which is why it now also allows users to submit to the app's Our Story section from wherever they are (the feature typically only allowed users to contribute from pre-vetted events or locations where Snapchat expects an increase in activity).
It's good to see Snapchat making it easier to communicate with people you already know but the new search bar doesn't really improve the friend discovery process. Friend suggestions are still absent from the app, for example. The new features have already begun rolling out to some Android users but will be available to all iOS and Android users "soon."