Snapchat is letting you see your friends for more than 10 seconds.
The instant messaging app, famous for its self-destructing and no-longer-than-10-second photo messages, announced it is adding a feature that lets you instant message and video chat with fellow mobile friends. The move is the first major addition to the messaging app since it turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, and comes on the heels of serious mobile messaging growth.
The new messaging features are ways for the social media app to extend the conversation users have on Snapchat beyond quickly disappearing snapshots.
“Until today, we felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence,” the Snapchat team wrote in a blog post Thursday. “There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting.”
Here’s how it works:
“Swipe right on a friend’s name in your Snapchat inbox to start chatting,” says Snapchat. “When you leave the chat screen, messages viewed by both you and your friend will be cleared – but either of you can always tap or screenshot to save anything you’d like to keep (addresses, to-do lists, etc.)!”
“We let you know when a friend is Here in your Chat so that you can give each other your full attention,” adds the messaging service. “And if you’re both Here, simply press and hold to share live video – and Chat face-to-face!”
When two friends are both online, “Here” is indicated by a blue icon that users press and hold to enable video. The service works over both cellular service and Wi-Fi.
The most recent update to Snapchat before this move was a feature called “Stories,” in which users could keep a picture on their individual accounts for up to 24 hours for any of their friends to see.
This move comes in light of explosive growth in the mobile messaging field. After Snapchat turned down Facebook’s offer, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $20 billion, added a direct-messaging feature to Instagram, and required mobile Facebook users to download its Messenger app to message on the social media site. Twitter also recently rolled out private photo messaging. Snapchat also follows moves by Apple and Google to improve mobile video chat capability through Facetime and Google Hangout.
Snapchat is also coming off a year of high-volume use. Comscore, an analytics firm, says Snapchat attracted 20 million users to its mobile application in February, up from 4.5 million users a year ago, according to the New York Times. It also supports more than 700 million messages per day.