By David Pierson / Los Angeles Times
YAHOO! unveiled a live video texting app on Wednesday that could boost the company’s mobile presence and help it compete against Apple and Facebook. Yahoo! Livetext allows users to connect by streaming video one-on-one like Apple’s FaceTime or Facebook’s Video Chat. But instead of using audio, the app has a text feature that appears on top of the live video.
The company said the new service targets hardcore users of mobile devices by lifting barriers to faster communication.
“While texting is quick and easy, you often miss the meaning of a message, have to explain your reaction [‘LOL’], or wait hours before getting a response,” Arjun Sethi, Yahoo! senior director for product management, wrote in a blog post.
Sethi said Livetext addresses those drawbacks while increasing the immediacy and intimacy of communicating.
“We see video as a way to make your conversations more authentic, and we see text as a way to connect that’s quick and nonintrusive,” Sethi wrote.
Livetext comes at a time when the Silicon Valley giant is desperate for more mobile products. Analysts say the company’s lackluster financial performance in recent times is largely blamed on a dearth of mobile advertising revenue.
Earlier this month, the company introduced Yahoo! Sports Daily Fantasy, a betting service available on mobile devices that signaled Yahoo!’s entrance into the $2.6-billion online sports gambling business. The company earns 10 percent of all wagers.
Yahoo! Livetext is available for both iOS and Android phones. Only devices with cell numbers will be able to use the app.
Like Snapchat, there is no record of the videos or texts after they appear. Yahoo! has no plans to add sound to the app. Asked about its similarity to video-streaming apps, Periscope and Meerkat, Adam Cahan, Yahoo! senior vice president for video, design and emerging products, said Livetext was different because it was built for one-to-one interaction rather than one-to-many. Yahoo! has been testing Livetext the past few weeks in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Ireland.