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Snapchat adds some chat to its app

Snapchat may be known as the "naughty app" that allows users to send picture messages which disappear after a few seconds, but the company now hopes to rival the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Patrick Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Thursday, the Snapchat team announced that their latest update would allow users to message each other and conduct live video calls.

The move suggests Snapchat is moving beyond its early life as a picture-sending app useful for sending risqué shots that would vanish in a moment.

"We felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence," Snapchat said in a blog post called "Putting the chat into Snapchat."

"There's nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you're chatting,"

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By swiping right on a friend's name in their inbox, users of Snapchat will be able to start chatting online. The messages will disappear once the conversation ends – although users can get around this by taking a screenshot, as with pictures.

Snapchat users will now also be able to share live video and chat face-to-face with the app, in a similar way to Apple's Facetime.

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Snapchat last updated its app in October with its launch of Snapchat Stories, which let users save a series of pictures over the course of 24 hours in order to create a "narrative" of their day.

Snapchat's move into the messaging space follows Facebook's $16 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, and illustrates the growing popularity of instant messaging versus texting.

Snapchat actually rejected a $3 billion all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook in November. Evan Spiegel, Snapchat's 23-year-old co-founder and CEO said he planned to hold out for an acquisition deal until at least 2014, when Snapchat might have an even bigger valuation.

Commenting on Snapchat's latest move, Anthony Mullen, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the app was best for users with unimportant or contentious content.

"The real DNA of the company is the ephemeral nature of the messaging," he told CNBC via email, adding that this would continue to define Snapchat's users.

"For sharing and saving baby photos and chats with a family group, WhatsApp is unbeatable," Mullen said. "While Snapchat's goldfish memory makes users more comfortable in having a fruity conversations with their partners or managing a shopping list."

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