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Viber's new service lets you spy on celebs’ chats

Internet phone app Viber has launched a social media platform that allows users to peek in on celebrities' conversations.

Public Chats is Viber's first foray into social media pitting it up against the likes of Vine, Facebook and Twitter.

Viber Public Chats
Viber

Viber has launched Public Chats with "global celebrities" including pop star Pixie Lott and blogger Perez Hilton. They will begin a conversation on a topic and invite who they want to join in. Users of Public Chats can then follow a conversation but will not be able to get involved unless invited.

The Israeli company - which was bought out by Japan's Rakuten earlier this year – said it hopes the new platform will allow its users to stay engaged longer in a world where social media companies are battling for users' time.

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"We are seeing huge growth and what to build up the retention," Mark Hardy, chief marketing officer at Viber, told CNBC by phone.

"We want users to spend more time on our app. Our ambition is to become more of social entertainment base on mobile that centres on communication."

Hardy also said that in the "near future", regular users of Public Chats will be able to start their own conversations.

New revenue stream?

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Viber has about 400 million users, while WhatsApp boasts around 600 million and Facebook has around 1.35 billion.

The move into social media could help the company generate new revenue if Public Chats takes off with users, one analyst said.

"This is an interesting move and opens it up to a wider audience and also potentially could lead into other revenue streams which is quite difficult to do in person to person messaging apps, but might be much easier with lots of people looking at a conversation," Ian Maude, an online media analyst at Enders Analysis, told CNBC by phone.

Own identity?

Hardy said that the target audiences for the new service are different in different markets, and the internet telephone app was focusing on getting the right celebrities and organizations in certain markets.

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Currently Public Chats is built into the Viber app, but analysts said building the platform as a separate entity could be more fruitful.

"It needs to have its own identity," Sam Gee, senior technology analyst at Mintel, told CNBC by phone.

"The Viber brand is closely associated with a one-to-one phone application. That is why they need to launch it as its own brand rather than a feature of Viber."

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal