Snapchat wants the “chat” part of its name to go even further.
On Tuesday, the app launched group video chat for up to 16 people at once as it becomes more of a messaging service than just a content platform. The update also includes mentions, or tagging of friends, in Snapchat Stories.
Snapchat’s video chat update, rolling out to users globally this week, means that users will have another way to communicate.
While not everyone on Snapchat is focused on chat, it’s still a core part of the app. More than 60 percent of Snapchat’s 187 million daily users use the app’s chat service, a Snap spokesperson told Mashable. Since March 2016, Snapchat has offered one-to-one video chat as well as audio and video notes. Now, Snapchat will offer a way for up to 16 people to video chat. If any more join, it will become a voice chat that supports up to 32 people.
As Snapchat described in its blog post, video chat can make texting “even more fun.” The move is also a way to encourage users to spend more time on the app and broaden Snapchat’s core message of being a camera app. Earlier this week, Snapchat released its first-ever TV commercial that frames it as a “new kind of camera.” Per Snapchat’s style, video calling allows lenses, so puppy filter all day whether you’re snapping a pic or in a 16-person video chat.
Here’s what group video calling looks like:
To access the feature, Snapchat users can enter an existing group chat or create a new one. Then, users can tap the video icon to start a group video chat. Each member of that group will be invited to the call and can choose to join via video or voice.
Group video is far from brand new. Facebook Messenger launched group video calling for up to six friends back in December 2016. Startup Houseparty launched with group video calling at its core and grew to 20 million users in its first year. The app has stayed quiet pretty much since but still has some loyal users. Snapchat’s key competitor Instagram may be adding video and voice calling soon, per reports. So far, Instagram only allows for live video chat between two people.
Beyond video chat, Snapchat is finally adding user mentions. That feature has been long available in Instagram and allows for people to be notified of their inclusion, and for viewers to swipe up and choose to add their profile or view their Snapchat Story. The update helps not only the casual Snapchat user but could also improve the experience of social media influencers who hope to grow their followers on the app.
Will video chat save Snapchat? That remains to be seen, but the dramatic shift with its redesign along with the mistake of accepting a controversial ad that asked users whether they would “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown” has led to high-profile users like Chrissy Teigen and others leaving the platform. Video chat may not entice Chrissy back, but the hope is it will keep other users on board.