Yahoo has launched an app intended to make video chats feel less awkward, by not making people feel compelled to talk at all.
Livetext, quietly launched weeks ago and now being rolled out worldwide, allows people to chat without actually talking, instead sending video feeds and messages in text. The company hopes that it can overcome the awkwardness of phone calls and video chats by keeping the intimacy of video but the spontaneity of normal chat.
The app works by showing a video of the person that you’re chatting with, in the same way as with a Facetime or Skype call. But instead of talking to them — which wouldn’t be heard — the app pops up a chat box where users can send messages or emoji.
Yahoo found that the audio was often “the biggest inhibitor of video chat”, according to Adam Cahan, SVP of mobile and emerging products at Yahoo. They also found that a large part of the problem with texting is “describing emotions”, since people can’t tell in words whether something is actually funny, or a person is being sarcastic — unless they use emoji.
That matched the feedback from the young people that Yahoo hopes will use the app, the company said. That demographic tends not to use video apps because it is “formal, people feel they have to make an appointment”, according to Arjun Sethi, senior director of product management for growth and emerging products — the company hopes that it can overcome that with the new service.
In use, the app is a little like Snapchat in the way that it creates quick, non-serious video. But it also does something new — bridging the gap between different forms.