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Snapchat, Facebook release video chat features

Snapchat, Facebook release video chat features
Snapchat, Facebook release video chat features

These days there’s never a shortage of happenings in Los Angeles’ expanding startup space, but developments in live and mobile messaging took center stage last week, with several big announcements from LA’s own Snapchat, as well as Facebook and Skype.

Unlike Snapchat’s disappearing-act picture messages, the popular app has yet to leave the forefront of the mobile messaging space. As the arena becomes increasingly saturated, though, players like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber and more are being forced to innovate to stay relevant.

On Thursday, Snapchat announced the release of its messaging and video features: Chat and Here. So where users were once looking to Snapchat solely for random picture sharing and then going elsewhere to fulfill their texting and video needs, Snapchat is now a one-stop shop for its swelling customer base.

Like the flagship feature, Chat’s text message conversations are only temporarily viewable; once the user leaves the chat screen, the conversation dissolves into the nether unless the user saves it with a screen shot. Here is a two-way video chat similar to, say, Facetime or Skype –albeit faster and more responsive – that lets users broadcast live video and audio and easily switch views between front- and rear-facing cameras.

To make its new Facetime-esque feature possible, Snapchat acquired browser-based video communications company AddLive several months prior. Snapchat confirmed the acquisition to The Verge on Friday, but has otherwise been mum about the deal.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Facebook added new video-sharing features to its Facebook Messenger app (currently only on iOS, Android is in the works). While the video capabilities don’t (yet?) allow for live streaming like Snapchat’s Here, the move is an indication that Facebook aims to stay relevant in the messaging space.

And on Monday, Skype opened up its group video calling to all users – for free – not just its Premium users that previously only had access to the feature (for $8.99 a month). Though Skype is most known for it’s one-to-one video calling, the company is likely recognizing the need to adapt in the increasingly competitive space. Although its group video calling doesn’t directly compete with messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts has offered free group video calling for several years and Snapchat’s Here is now positioned as a competitor to Skype’s one-to-one video calling. Users can also get similar experiences out of other group chat and video broadcasting apps on the scene, such as Hang w/ an Orange County-based company that allows live streaming video and chat from users’ phones to their thousands of followers.

Available on Windows, Mac and Xbox One platforms, Skype’s group video calling allows up to 10 people to join a single chat. Skype said it would be integrating free group video calling across additional platforms in the future, including smartphone versions.