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Snapchat adds real-time chat, video chat features

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Snapchat's new video chat feature.

Snapchat's new video chat feature.

Snapchat is adding a chat feature to its self-destructing photo-messaging service and hiring a Google executive to increase security.

Despite its name, the Snapchat app has never offered real-time conversation – until now. Previously, users were only able to send each other photos and videos that self-destruct a few seconds after they are viewed.

The US start-up wrote in a blog post that Snapchat users will be able to chat by swiping right on a friend's name.

When users leave the chat screen, messages will be automatically deleted. In keeping with Snapchat's tradition, users can take screenshots of the chat if they want to preserve it.

Users will also be able to video chat, as they would with Skype or Apple's FaceTime.

Google exec hired

Snapchat has also hired Jad Boutros from Google as its director of information security after suffering a security breach earlier this year that caused as many as 4.6 million users' phone numbers and usernames to be exposed.

Boutros has been at Google since 2004 and previously was a senior software engineer at Oracle, according to his LinkedIn profile.

"The prospect for working with a fast-paced driven ambitious smart young start-up was too appealing to turn down," Boutros wrote in a Google+ post, announcing his departure from Google.

The company, which has previously recruited Emily White from Facebook's Instagram and Google's Peter Magnusson for top positions, is seen to be building its executive ranks.

Soaring popularity

Snapchat's expansion comes at a time when mobile messaging apps are soaring in popularity as people look beyond traditional texting to communicate and share photos and videos.

People now send more than 700 million disappearing snaps a day, with more than 500 million stories viewed daily, Snapchat spokeswoman Mary Ritti said.

Some apps also accommodate more than just texts and photos, making them all the more appealing. Tango, for instance, allows music to be shared through Spotify's streaming service. KakaoTalk lets people share voice memos and location, along with animated emoticons.

In one example of mobile messaging's increasing value, Facebook, which reportedly has tried to acquire Snapchat for $US3 billion ($3.25 billion), agreed to buy WhatsApp for $US19 billion in February. WhatsApp has half a billion users, up from 465 million in February. In comparison, Twitter has 255 million users.

Other popular messaging apps include Facebook's own Messenger, as well as Tango, which has some 200 million users and recently received a $US215 million investment from China's Alibaba. Another app, Viber, sold for $US900 million earlier this year to Japan's Rakuten.

AP, Bloomberg

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