Yahoo's New App Wants To Be The Next Snapchat

Photo: Courtesy Yahoo.
You can text anywhere and everywhere. But, to FaceTime or Skype, it's not quite so easy. You need the audio on or earbuds in, and it's most polite to step somewhere quiet, especially if you're in public. A new app from Yahoo, announced today, interestingly combines the best of both chat worlds that could rival the erstwhile chatting darling, Snapchat.

Livetext
, which will be available on iOS and Android starting Thursday, is extraordinarily simple. After you download it, you add your friends, then tap to begin a chat with them. You see their video feed, and they see yours, but there's no audio. Instead, you type out messages at the bottom of the screen, and write about what's happening rather than talk about it. Yahoo showed it off at a press event Wednesday, and while it's an interesting idea, it's a somewhat awkward concept when viewed publicly (*crickets*).

Livetext lands somewhere between the intimacy of a private video chatting session, and the ease of a text message thread. You can see the person you're talking to —their facial emotions, what's around them (should they pan their phone camera around) — but the actual communication is still typed. It's not so much the new Yahoo Messenger (which still exists??), but more of a one-to-one, live Snapchat session.

So... when would you actually use this? As soon as I heard the idea, I could imagine my teenage self, sitting in high school Chemistry, switching on this app, and streaming my intense look of boredom to my friend in French class down the hall. More applicable to my current self, I imagined being at a conference and trying to meet up with a colleague: You can see where one another are, write out something like "I'm by the restroom on the second floor!", and eliminate the "Wait, can you say that again?" of a phone call. You could also just share your experience with a friend or loved one without worrying about audio (say, if they're at a concert on the East coast while you're in a 6 p.m. work meeting in California, where a sudden blast of audio would be frowned upon, to say the least).

The app has the potential to be addictive, like Snapchat, but also useful, like WhatsApp or SMS. But, to reach either of those levels, people have to actually download it. As evidenced by my barren demo version right now, a chatting app isn't any fun if you don't have anyone to chat with. And, with so many different messaging apps to choose from these days... We'll see if Livetext can cut through the noise.
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