When Snapchat first landed, its ephemerality was hard for some people to wrap their heads around. Messages disappear seconds after being viewed, the tools to draw or write on photos are rudimentary and then, there was the whole matter of teens using it for sexting.
But two years post-launch, Snapchat has taken hold as other companies scramble to catch up. On Thursday, Snapchat introduced a new feature that allows users to, well, chat with friends. Before, you could send one-off Snaps that would disappear after being viewed. Now, you can also text and video chat back and forth — and when the conversation is over, it all disappears into the ether as well.
“We felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence,” the Snapchat blog post says. “There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting.”
In recent months, social media companies have been clamoring to build up their own messaging services. Vine introduced a new private messaging feature, Instagram added direct messaging, and Facebook has a new messaging app that makes chatting more visual and immediate. Facebook also recently acquired the messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion, and failed to acquire Snapchat last year.
As more social media apps and companies offer messaging services, though, each will continue to pull at users’ attention. How many options do people need to have a conversation? How many of those will they actually use? Facebook, for example, has the benefit of being a social network where many people already spend time.
Snapchat is very intimate and immediate. It’s relatively low-fi so it feels more stripped down. As a result, people think less about composing an image and many users purposefully send unflattering images of themselves to friends. But, they also sext. Many people on Twitter have suggested what adding chatting could mean for Snapchat users.
The various features on most social media sites are constantly evolving and iterating. This is more intensely true for messaging services right now. So, whether this update drives more people to use Snapchat, you can be sure things won’t look this way for very long. [Copyright 2014 NPR]