Late to the Game?

by borne . August 14, 2015

Yahoo has announced that its text-chatting app is going live around the world for iOS and Android users. This comes a little over a month after its test release in the US. A text-chatting app you ask? What, you mean like Snapchat or Slingshot or Periscope? The short answer would be yes, kind of like those.

 

What then does Yahoo’s new offering bring to the table and is it too late for the tech giant to make an impact?

 

Sound and Vision

 

Apps are always under constant need of improvement. You have your successful apps which break into the market at the right time, tack on to the right user base, have the right backing etc. But if they rest on their laurels there is always a way to do the same thing a little better, a little quicker, a little differently. App developers in London, San Francisco, Singapore – pretty much everywhere – are all in competition to ride that wave of success when it comes or to quickly improve upon the success of an app that does hit it.

 

The buzzword there is ‘quickly’ and you have to feel that Yahoo might just be a little late in the game to make an impact but Livetext does have an interesting feature that sets it apart in the ability to video message without sound.

 

As Yahoo explained in their release blog:

 

“Connecting with your friends should be spontaneous, convenient and memorable – but also fleeting, just like a real-life conversation. So today, we’re introducing Yahoo Livetext – a new way to communicate that blends the immediacy, simplicity and ease of texting with the expressiveness of video, without the audio.”

 

So think Snapchat but with silent video in the background.

 

Will it work, Will it take off?

 

Yahoo certainly has the clout to make an impact and get people downloading the app. The video feature is interesting and there are some definite uses for it. When in a café for instance and it’s a bit noisy and you wanted to see the person you are chatting with it could come in handy.

 

An interesting marketing reference is that Yahoo has used adults and older teenagers in the concept imagery to advertise Livetext. It is well-known that Snapchat appeals largely to a young teenage audience and perhaps Yahoo intends to capture an older audience base, or even take a chunk of Snapchat’s users who want to ‘mature’ with the experience of video.

 

Everything in terms of the success of the app then hinges around users wanting this different or ‘evolved’ experience. Users of messaging apps are often loyal or lazy so it will be difficult for Yahoo to make serious inroads into the market. Okay, perhaps loyal or lazy is too strong but there is certainly the case to be made for ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality’ and Yahoo must have known this too.

 

Yahoo certainly has an active user base it can tap into and has a strong messaging history such as with Yahoo Messenger for instance, although its uses have fallen in recent years. It cannot be discounted that Livetext is a precursor to a new messaging system from Yahoo or that Yahoo wants to (again) be seen to be the de-facto choice of messaging and Lifetext is another product in that umbrella. Yahoo’s existing network of users may well be what tips the balance of success or failure for Livetext. In fact, Lifetext has been developed by the same team who had created the MessageMe app which Yahoo purchased last year.

 

Lessons to be learned

 

While it is positive that Yahoo has joined the app party and that it has the financial backing as well as the talent at its disposal to make inroads it remains to be seen how far these inroads can go. You have to feel that the market is too saturated at the moment, even in spite of the interesting ‘silent video’ feature of Livetext. But, Yahoo has released something which is also a positive and will certainly gather data and experience from the Livetext project meaning they could and should be better prepared for next time.

 

The fast and hard story for Yahoo however is that they may just be too late in the game for Livetext to have any real impact and grow a sustainable user base. Yahoo certainly had the resources to develop something sooner and while that fault cannot be put on the MessageMe team they have now been put into a more difficult scenario to create success for this fledgling app.

 

It is better late than never for Livetext however and we look forward to seeing how it impacts the marketplace.

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