Yahoo launches a monster of a messaging app

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | One comment »

Yahoo Announces Mobile Video-Messaging Service to Woo Users.

Yahoo! Yahoo is quite late to the world of mobile messaging, but you’ve got to give the company some credit: The new chat service it finally debuted on Wednesday sure is different from the rest of them.NEW YORK — Following a flurry of rumors circulating the web over the past few weeks, Yahoo unveiled its new messaging product on Wednesday called Livetext. Inc. unveiled a new messaging application that lets people use live video to check in with friends, a bid to capitalize on the growing popularity of mobile tools like WhatsApp and Snapchat. The update unharnesses the company from its ancient Yahoo Messenger product and gives it a more robust tool to compete with the likes of everything from Snapchat to Microsoft’s Skype (sort of, keep reading).

The new service, called Livetext, lets users communicate via video — without audio — and text messages, Adam Cahan, a senior vice president at Yahoo, said Wednesday at an event in New York. Cahan said Livetext doesn’t include audio because communication is enhanced when it’s silent. “We want to make sure that there’s no inhibition to answering and connecting,” Cahan said during the event. “For me, honestly, whenever I get like a video chat or I get a call – – I instinctively just send to voice mail or turn it off.” Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer is looking for new products to bolster user numbers and engagement — and that should, in turn, attract more advertising to reach those folks. Investors were disappointed last week when Yahoo said it expects third-quarter revenue of $1 billion to $1.04 billion, short of analysts’ estimates of $1.07 billion. Eliminating audio means you can use it anywhere — in a meeting, on a noisy street, during class, on a train. “It’s a new way to communicate: casual text on top of video,” Arjun Sethi, a senior director of product management at Yahoo and head of the Livetext project, said in an interview. The effect is a rather interesting new take on messaging — a move that is very difficult to accomplish at this point — in that it looks like you’re watching a billboard you might see on the street, with the background playing host to a stream of text and iconography.

As Facebook, Google, Tencent and WhatsApp introduced mobile chat apps in recent years and gained hundreds of millions of users, Yahoo floundered in its attempts to update its Yahoo Messenger service, a web service designed a generation ago. Aside from using the app to communicate with a friend, like Periscope and Meerkat, it’s not hard to envision the app being used as a promotional tool, with a location or event in the background as a tailored corporate or event message scrolls down the screen. One issue that might trip up such uses is the fact that the app is currently only available for one-to-one use (but clever users will likely figure out a way around this). Snapchat, which specializes in ephemeral messages, earlier this year raised $537.6 million in a sale of common stock, with the funding round valuing the messaging startup at about $16 billion.

As Yahoo developed the product, engineers tested it at Ohio State University and the University of California at Santa Barbara, and also offered it to groups of high school students. But it feels like after spending a few minutes with it, you’ll just want to hop to Periscope or FaceTime because the app doesn’t let you pipe in audio even if you want it.

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