Snapchat has updated its ephemeral photo and video sharing app with instant messaging, with the new Chat feature also including live video streaming support. The new iOS and Android app also indicates presence, so you know when your friends are paying attention to the smutty photos and clips you’re sending them, but the chat itself has the same short lifespan as multimedia does.
The IM pane is accessed via a right-swipe from the contacts list, and can be switched into live video sharing mode with the tap of a circular button in the lower corner.
However, swipe away from the chat screen, and its contents are instantly wiped, just as happens to photos and videos when you’ve watched them. There’s the option to save some messages – such as if your friend tells you a phone number you want to keep – and of course you can screenshot it, but the idea is that IM conversations should be temporary rather than logged.
Snapchat has courted controversy since its launch, with suggestions that the app made it too easy for teenagers and others to share explicit content with each other.
The actual degree of privacy around that content has also been questioned: although the app warns the sender if a screenshot is saved, various hacks showing how you can secretly save photos and video without the recipient knowing have proliferated.
This latest update pushes Snapchat out of the mere smut zone and into the mainstream messaging space, albeit with the temporary twist. Whether users will take to that in the same way, or prefer a little more permanence with their conversations, remains to be seen.