Snapchat today announced a significant update to its chat function, a move that could give other messaging apps increased competition.
Snapchat, which says it has more than 100 million daily active users and more than 8 billion video views every day, is calling its update Chat 2.0 and gives users a much broader way to communicate with other Snapchat users. Among the updates are more than 200 stickers (a very popular feature in messaging apps); video and audio notes, which lets you send videos up to 10 seconds long; or just an audio one if you can't type but want to communicate; and audio and video calls, which can now be made even if the friend you're trying to reach isn't in the chat at that time.
Users can also now send multiple photos at a time in a chat and edit them with Snapchat's filters.
One of the most alluring aspects to the update is that users can change how they're communicating while they're still in a chat. For instance, users can swap between video or audio calls, photos and stickers, as well as audio and video notes.
According to TechCrunch:
Snapchat has figured out how to pull every way humans communicate into a single interface -- video, audio, text, symbols and drawing. Instead of having to choose how you want to connect before you start, conversations can evolve on the fly.
"When we first launched Chat, our goal was to emulate the best parts of face-to-face conversation," said Snapchat in a blog post. "Chat 1.0 was all about the joys of being here -- when most apps told you when your friend was typing, Chat let you know that your friend was listening. Two years later, we've learned a ton about how people talk, but our goal remains unchanged. We want Chat to be the best way to communicate -- second only to hanging out face-to-face."
Initial reactions for the update are that it is robust and will take a bit of time to fully understand.
This Snapchat update is DENSE. Don't read about it. Update app + spend rest of the day in it. Use it to learn it. Major social media key.— Jason Stein (@jasonwstein) March 29, 2016
"Snapchat's messaging is one of its most popular features," said Mr. Stein, founder and CEO at Laundry Service. "The more I use Snapchat, the more I realize the stories people create end up becoming context for chats."
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But for brands, the update provides an opportunity to have enhanced communications with consumers, including customer service. "It's a major opp to engage audiences in a meaningful way," said Mr. Stein. He added that like other platforms, brands still will need to think about how they are going to approach the audience there and tell a story. "But now there's an opportunity to have interaction and communications around live stories and live content, whether that's ads or influencer activations or the brands' own stories."
Messaging apps have seen significant growth in popularity in recent years, though many are not widely used in the U.S. WeChat, which is wildly popular in China, along with Facebook Messenger, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts and Kik, among others, are all competing for loyal users. Some have embedded the ability for users to purchase things, while others have focused solely on text communications. Facebook Messenger is generally considered now the most popular app, which Facebook separated from its eponymous app in late 2014.