iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — You used to just send a text message. Not anymore.
Mobile users are flocking to amped-up messaging services like Snapchat, Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime. The options are myriad and Yahoo is jumping into the fray with an innovation of its own: Streaming video plus chat, but no audio at all. It’s typing, reading and watching, all silently.
Called Livetext, it transmits video between users then overlays their typed text messages on the video. The big differentiator is that no sound is transmitted. While silent video seems counterintuitive, the Sunnyvale, California Internet giant says it’s great is for reactions, show and tell, and situations when talking wouldn’t be acceptable.
Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s senior vice president of video, design and emerging products, says the best part of the app is that users can accept a live text “in any context whatsoever.”
“I’ve done it in meetings, on a plane, actually, it worked, or in any kind of public space because without the audio, you’re actually really engaging in a private discussion … what we found was if we remove that audio that actually people were connecting as if they were texting but receiving the expressiveness of the person they were communicating with,” he said.
While video chatting services like Skype, FaceTime and Viber have flourished, there’s an element of formality to video chatting and some complain it’s awkward; that they don’t know where to look or that it seems rude to multitask while talking.
But text messaging is on a tear. According to research from The Economist published in March of this year, mobile messaging is big and getting bigger. They say 20 billion people a day send SMS messages, while WhatsApp is used to send 30 billion messages daily. The Snapchat website says two billion videos are watched daily on its messaging service and that they have 100 million active users. Emoji use is growing and Facebook says its messenger service has 600 million active users.
So Yahoo’s entry into a growing and diversifying messaging environment makes sense, especially as CEO Marissa Mayer pushes to make all of Yahoo’s products and properties “a daily habit.”
Added Cahan: “We definitely find that our early adopters are closer to the millennials and some of the teens in the sense that those tend to be the folks that are the early communicators and frequent communicators … We view live text as really the emotional connection and reaction from video with the simplicity and ease of texting and we combined those two to form a new form of communication.”
The app can be downloaded free from iTunes and the Google Play store starting Thursday.
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