Anything WhatsApp can do, Snapchat can do better. At least that's the direction Snapchat's latest mobile messaging announcement hints is the next page in its digital playbook. The latest innovation is called Chat.
Snapchat first launched in 2011 and has taken its lumps and bumps. The social media company was accused of snagging talent from the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook. Snapchat later flat-out snubbed Facebook's multimillion-dollar offer to buy its photo-sharing tech. And let's not forget the millions of accounts that were compromised when Snapchat was hacked or the lawsuit over ownership rights for the concept that made it famous.
It's against that backdrop that Snapchat is now taking on WhatsApp, which Facebook recently acquired for $19 billion. WhatsApp is a fast-growing, cross-platform mobile messaging company and, clearly, Snapchat sees opportunity there.
The Evolution of Conversation
"Building Snapchat has taught us a lot about what makes conversation special. When we first started working on an application for sharing disappearing pictures, we had no idea how much we would learn," the company said in a blog post.
"Our classmates were quick to point out that you could always take a screenshot. That led us to the notion of deletion by default -- you keep what you want, and we'll get rid of everything else!"
Snapchat went on to explain that it has learned conversation feels better when it's visual. With that in mind, the company has designed its app to make sure that it goes straight to the camera at launch. The company then moved to add a storytelling component with Stories that allow users to create narratives and share them with friends.
Is Chat Right for Business?
Now, Snapchat is adding presence to the mix because, as they say, "There's nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you're chatting."
Here's how Chat works: To start chatting, Swipe right on a friend's name in your Snapchat inbox. When you leave the chat screen any messages you and your friend exchanged will disappear. Of course, in true Snapchat style you can tap or screenshot to save anything you want to keep.
You can tell if your friend is present through a Chat feature called Here. If both sides are active, you can press and hold the button to share live video and chat face to face.
But, the question remains, does this new feature hold any business value? We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the topic. He told us, quite plainly, the answer is no.
"Snapchat is primarily used by younger people and not by professionals," Sterling said. "It could evolve into a business-calling or video-conferencing tool but the 'culture' of the app would need to change first."