Snapchat Adds Chat Messaging to Its Disappearing Features List

Snapchat, the app that lets users share self-deleting photos, now lets them also send text messages that disappear unless snapped with a screenshot.

Snapchat, in keeping with the great tradition of social-networking applications, continues expanding its capabilities. The app that initially gave users the ability to share silly photos that would automatically be deleted, has expanded into chat. Those chats are, of course, also quickly deleted.

Snapchat told users in a May 1 blog post that one lesson it learned early on is that "conversation feels better when it's visual." So each time a user launched Snapchat, it took them "straight to the camera." It's the quickest way, it said, "to capture and share a moment on your smartphone."

Still, the team continued, something was missing—"an important part of conversation: presence." And with that, it introduced Chat—a feature that should pretty quickly step on the toes of rival socially inclined apps.

"Swipe right on a friend's name in your Snapchat inbox to start chatting," it explained. "When you leave the chat screen, messages viewed by both you and your friend will be cleared—but [as with photos] either of you can always tap on screenshot to save anything you'd like to keep."

When a friend is "Here in your Chat," the Snapchap alerts a user, who can press and hold the blue button to share live video.

The Battle for Users

Snapchat has an estimated 26 million users. While it's coy about that figure, it did confirm back in September that users were sending 350 million messages, or "snaps," a day, which was up from 200 million in June.

Those figures were offered amid reports that Snapchat's then 23-year-old founder, Evan Spiegel, had turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook—which also integrated real-time chat capabilities into its app to get users engaging more often and for longer and has since purchased messaging app Whatsapp for $19 billion in cash and stock.

According to reports, Spiegel turned down the offer because he wasn't sure how he'd like working for Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, he liked living in Southern California (instead of Silicon Valley), and he believed Snapchat still had room to grow.

Critics have pointed out that Snapchat could lose the attention of fickle, young users, and weren't sure the company had a profitable business plan.

In October, Snapchat added Stories, a feature that lets Snaps be seen for 24 hours. Brands from NPR to Taco Bell and the HBO show "Girls" have been experimenting with Stories and in some cases gaining traction.

With Snapchat users now sharing 700 million "snaps" and 500 million Stories a day, according to Bloomberg, it's hoped that its founders are getting closer to figuring out how to monetize that interest.

Spiegel has said he believes users will pay for "value-added services," though he hasn't yet specified what those might be.