Popular image-sharing and instant messaging app Snapchat expanded its offerings yesterday with the launch of group video calling and Story mentions. In a blog post, the platform announced a new feature that allows up to 16 people to come together in group video chats. The new feature will roll out globally this week, Snapchat said, and will also let users join video calls using only audio or text, depending on their preferences. Users will also be able to use Snapchat’s famous face filters – called Lenses – in the video calls. Only-voice group chats will support up to 32 users.
In the blog post, Snapchat wrote, “We designed Chat to feel less like texting and more like hanging out. That’s why when a friend opens Chat, their Bitmoji pops up to say “I’m here!” – and why your Chat conversations aren’t saved forever, by default...Today, we’re making Chat even more fun. Now you can video chat with up to 16 of your friends at one time. Just tap the video camera icon in a Group Chat to get your friends together! Friends in the Group Chat will receive a notification inviting them to join.”
Snapchat launched a redesign of its application earlier this year that received massive negative feedback, including a huge petition for it to roll back the changes. However, Co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel refused to budge, even saying that the backlash only validated the redesign. However, the platform continued to run into trouble – a tweet by Kylie Jenner in February this year questioning the usefulness of Snapchat wiped out nearly $1 billion of parent company Snap Inc.’s market value, and pop star Rihanna told fans to delete the app in March after a mobile game ran an ad on the application which she felt mocked a domestic violence incident in her past.
Group video calling has already been a part of competitor applications like Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and Skype for a while. However, Snap hopes to fight a competitive battle with these players through its new features. The second new feature – Story mentions – is also something that has existed on rival Instagram for a long time. While Facebook-owned Instagram itself “copied” the Stories concept from Snapchat, the new mentions feature, mimicking Instagram, lets Snapchat users tag each other in their stories.
In an email statement to NDTV Gadgets 360° about the mentions feature, Snap said, “Let your friends know who you’re with or if you’re thinking about them. Now, you can tag friends in the Snaps you add to your Story! Start by typing “@...” and then enter the username of who you’d like to mention. In some cases, you may need to type the full username. Viewers will be able to swipe up on your Snaps to watch the tagged account’s public Story or add them as a friend.” Again, like Instagram, the feature will likely see widespread adoption by celebs/influencers who can use it to tag partners and clients on their posts directly – something Snapchat will no doubt be counting on as it seeks to strengthen its market presence.