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New app adds instant reactions to video messaging

Source: Samba | YouTube

A new app has added a twist to video messaging between friends: Instant reactions.

Samba, which recently won the SXSW 2014 Accelerator Award for the social category, instantly records and sends a user's reaction to a video sent to their smartphone by a friend.

"Imagine Facebook without the 'like' button," Barak Hachamov, one of the company's co-founders told CNBC, referring to a user's ability to get instant feedback.

"Samba evokes one of the more basic and essential human emotions and needs," Hachamov said. "It recreates the warmth of face-to-face interaction; it infuses digital video communication with genuine, authentic responses."

Samba launched in the Apple app store on Feb. 20. The company said it plans to be available for Android in several months.

Unlike Snapchat's model of immediately disappearing pictures and videos after they're viewed, Samba lets users decide how long the video can be accessible, from one moment to an entire year.

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The company's raised $630,000 in funding, and while Hachamov won't disclose how many downloads they've had, he said 30 percent of the people who registered are using it on a daily basis.

Ellie Wheeler, a principal with Greycroft Partners, a venture capital firm in New York, said there's room to grow in the social video space. "We're still seeing video generally exploding on the Internet, and it's early days on mobile.

"You saw the rapid rise of Vine and others, but it's still the first inning," she said.

Wheeler said a service like Samba needs to build and retain an engaged user base, which can be extremely challenging. "It's hard to get noticed within the app store so ultimately the biggest concern around any of these types of companies is how they can rise above the noise," she said.

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"Are they providing a differentiated enough experience to stand out and become an everyday part of users' routines?"

Wheeler thinks Samba's value proposition could also be its curse. "It's a more active way of communicating which means it requires more time and effort than just shooting off a text or message on WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, etc."

For Hachamov, the success of Samba lies in the hope that users are willing to put that exact effort into communicating.

"If this smiley [emoticon] is replaced by a video of a smile, it's like emoticons on steroids," Hachamov said.

—By CNBC's Uptin Saiidi .Follow him on Twitter @uptin