Snapchat brings chatting and calling to web for paid subscribers

Snapchat features like snapping, chatting, and video calling are coming to desktop through a new web app, marking the first time the company has made its service available beyond smartphones.

With Snapchat for Web, you can log in with your Snapchat account and send private messages or call friends on desktop. Initially, the web platform will be available exclusively to Snapchat Plus subscribers, and it’s the first major feature launch since Snap announced its paid tier in June. Subscribers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will get access first. Snapchat will only be compatible with Google’s Chrome browser and not Apple’s Safari.

Though Snapchat was created as a visual-first messaging app, its head of messaging product, Nathan Boyd, says a web offering makes sense because its users are using desktop computers more frequently. Snapchat for Web gives users extra space to chat and call in the same window, with Snap’s AR Lenses coming soon. With people using computers more during the pandemic — and the new school year around the corner — Boyd said Snap wants to bring more of its products to web over time.

Yes, Snapchat for Web still opens to your (webcam) camera. You can also edit your Bitmoji from the web.
Image: Snap

Snap positions itself mostly as an AR platform for its Lenses, but the app’s core use case is still private, ephemeral messaging and calling. That puts the web version of Snapchat in competition with Discord and Meta’s WhatsApp, which is also available on desktop. Boyd says that 100 million people call each other on Snapchat every month, spending an average of more than 30 minutes a day, and that chatting is typically the last thing people do before closing the app.

“We are always looking for ways to meet our community where they are,” he says in an interview. “It just felt like something that was an unmet opportunity.”

Rolling out the web expansion to subscribers first signals that the company is taking its paid tier seriously as an additional way to make money. Snap is under pressure like never before to monetize its 332 million daily active users — more users than Twitter — as leadership warns that revenue growth is slowing. Though the desktop version initially won’t have ads — Snap’s main source of revenue — the hope is it will keep loyal users coming back.

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