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Snapchat Takes On Facebook with New Upgrade

When Snapchat was first unleashed, the self-destructing photo and video sharing service was maligned by tech press as a “sexting” app. Some doubted its staying power, writing it off as a service for teenagers. Today, Snapchat has 100 million daily active users and claims 7 billion daily video views, nearly as many as Facebook, which, by comparison, has 1.04 billion daily active users. The app took another big step toward social-media domination, unveiling a number of new features that make its messaging services significantly more sophisticated.

Snapchat has always had a messaging component. It lets you send and save self-destructing text-and-emoji and picture messages, and it included a video-chatting feature. But from a user perspective, the messaging always felt like an afterthought. Now, Snapchat lets you make voice calls and send audio and video messages within Chat, and it has its own private video-call service, in which users can choose who they want to talk to and start shooting video. Each guest can chime in with his or her own audio or video response, or simply text back. In addition, the new update introduces a set of stickers users can add to their messages, and autoplay for Snapchat

By doubling down on messaging, Snapchat is finally going toe-to-toe with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, its two largest rivals in the space. But it’s also a larger play for social-media domination, by creating an in-app ecosystem designed to keep users inside Snapchat for as long as possible.

Snapchat isn’t the first app to move toward becoming an all-service platform. In China, Tencent’s WeChat is the dominant messaging platform of choice. If you need to hail a ride from Didi Kuaidi, the so-called “Uber of China,” or check the news, or manage your credit-card bills, you do it inside the WeChat app. Facebook Messenger has seemingly followed this same app-within-an-app model—you can now book a Lyft or an Uber from Facebook Messenger, talk to businesses, track packages you’ve ordered, and even eventually interact with Facebook M, an artificial-intelligence service.

The implications for phone carriers are huge. If consumers continue shifting toward using more services within apps, traditional cell-phone plans are rendered obsolete. You won’t need to make phone calls on your phone if you can use data to place a call within Facebook or Snapchat. Some carriers are apparently already preparing for that brave new world: T-Mobile has quietly introduced a plan offering unlimited data and texting without cellular calls for as low as $20 a month, cutting out the ability to make phone calls completely.

Snapchat is still growing—it’s a richly valued start-up, and even one of its largest, most conservative institutional backers, Fidelity, marked up its estimated valuation in Snapchat by 62 percent last month. It has successfully followed the Facebook model of building a popular product first, and then figuring out revenue—including multi-year advertising deals with companies like Viacom. Creating a more sophisticated product, one that could effectively kill the traditional phone call and compete with more established messaging brands, helps secure Snapchat’s position as a viable communications platform, and not just a teenager’s plaything.

Source: VFNews Article by Maya Kosoff (http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/03/snapchat-takes-on-facebook-with-huge-new-upgrade)

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