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Snap's shares soared to a strong close after a sparkling first day of tradeby Natalia Angulo-Hinkson
Economics & Business#SNAP

UPDATE 4:08 PM EST:  Shares of Snap closed up 44% on their first day of trade on Thursday at $24.48 a share.

Shares of the social media stock rose as high as $26.05 in late afternoon trade before dropping back closer to the opening $24 price point. More than 200 million shares were traded over the course of the day, CNBC reports.

For comparison, the young photo company's $33 billion valuation is similar in size to Marriott and Target, but still nowhere near Facebook's massive $395 billion.

Ironically, one of the only IPOs that Snap did not surpass was Twitter's. 

But it's market cap quickly climbed past companies from Twitter to American Airlines.

UPDATE 1:40 p.m. EST: In afternoon trading, Snap shares were up 51.6 percent.

Across the country, a group of protesters mobilized outside of Snap's headquarters.

Protesters say Snap is pushing locals out of the Venice Beach, California, community.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The day the tech world has been waiting for has finally arrived: Snap, the parent company of super popular messaging app Snapchat, started trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as a public company.

The stock opened at 11:20 a.m. EST at $24 per share -- 40 percent above its price -- and giving the company a $33 billion valuation. The tech darling priced its highly-anticipated initial public offering above its target range. The company raised $3.4 billion and was listed at $17 a share on Wednesday night.

The stock is listed under the ticker symbol "SNAP."

For perspective, Snap is now worth three times as much as Twitter.

Snap's initial valuation was double the size of Twitter and the biggest tech IPO in the U.S. since Facebook, making Snap the hottest tech stock in years.

Translation: Snap's co-founders and some investors will cement their multimillionaire status.

Co-founders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy arrived on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) early Thursday just before the opening bell of trade.

Spiegel's fiance, supermodel Miranda Kerr, even snapped the arrival.

Here's a look at Spiegel's signature in the NYSE guest book.

There is no question the stock is expected to pop. However, it's not without critics.

Analysts say Snap has to define and deliver on its promise of being a "camera company."

Snap recognizes it has to innovate to keep users interested. Case in point: Spectacles may have been a solid marketing tool, but the nifty camera hasn't been especially lucrative for them so far.

"If we do not develop successful new products or improve existing ones, our business will suffer," the company's filing said.

What's more: though revenue for Snap skyrocketed in 2016 up to $404 million, the company still incurred a pretty hefty net loss, meaning it's not yet profitable.

Snap is also struggling to lure new users. Though it now has 158 million daily active users that take 2.5 billion snaps each day, growth has slowed -- coincidentally, since Instagram debuted its own version of "stories."

User growth may sound tangential, but to investors, that's a serious issue, especially when talking about social media where a clear path to revenue remains to be seen. (Just look to Twitter for an example.)

So while the high pricing is a good sign for Snap, it's got a long road ahead.

"What that number means for the longer term very little," Chi-Hua Chien, managing partner at Goodwater Capital, told AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.