Snapchat Introduces Two Highly Requested New Features
The past few years have been a roller coaster for Snapchat, the ephemeral photo-messaging service. Since it started in 2011, the company has made headlines for turning down billions from potential buyers and luring heavyweight talent from Facebook, Google, and Amazon, facing criticism over gaping security vulnerabilities, and finding itself in a legal battle over ownership of the company’s original concept.
And now the founders are hoping to transform the company’s product into something more sleek and sophisticated, a primary hub for mobile messaging. On Thursday, Snapchat began introducing a new version of its application and its features via — what else? — a Snapchat message the company sent to its users.
“The goal has always been to move beyond messaging,” Evan Spiegel, one of the company’s founders, said in an interview in New York on Tuesday. “We’re trying to take the traditional text conversation and make it better.”
Snapchat’s core service — the ability to send photo messages that disappear after a few seconds — has always centered on conveying a feeling, saying a quick hello, or showing friends what you are up to in a brief, lightweight, and informal visual status update. The revamped Snapchat is intended to deepen those interactions with a feature that lets people trade text messages and the ability to have a real-time video conversation and easily switch between those modes within the main Snapchat application.
“If I’m walking around and want to show you something, why do I have to switch apps?” Spiegel said. “It stops the conversation and makes it a transaction, rather than free-flowing.”
The video-chatting feature works on WiFi and cellular connections. Spiegel said the company did not do much testing around data consumption, which is usually heavy when video is involved.
“We spent most of our time looking at experience and what happens if the transmission gets degraded,” he said. “We prioritized the audio, so that even if the video gets fuzzy, you can still hear the other person.”
Spiegel said the new version of Snapchat is meant to closely mimic the way people interact and have conversations offline and in person. For example, the new app includes a feature called “presence,” which shows when friends are online and available to trade messages or jump into a video conversation.