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Yahoo reveals Livetext, its new silent video chat app

Yahoo has a new way to connect with your friend. At an event today in Manhattan, Yahoo announced a new app called Livetext, available tomorrow in the iTunes store. Yahoo describes the app as "live video texting," essentially a combination of self-facing live video and chat. Each Livetext starts as a live stream akin to Periscope, which is then overlaid with text messages typed by the user in real time, scrolling upwards like a conventional texting program. Each Livetext is one-to-one and doesn't begin until both parties agree to open the channel, cutting down on the potential for spam or abuse.

The result is a combination of traditional texting and more media-rich platforms like Snapchat and Beme. But while those apps work with both video and audio, Livetext is entirely silent, communicating only through muted video and text. The result falls somewhere between a Snapchat and a GIF, a combination Yahoo hopes will foster a sense of intimacy among users. "We want to create the emotional connection," said Yahoo product manger Arjun Seti. "We want to make sure you can get into a conversation as quickly as possible." The app is also ephemeral, deleting the chats and video as soon as the app is closed.

Livetext first appeared earlier this month for users in Hong Kong and Thailand, but hasn't been available elsewhere before now. Much of the team working on the app came from Yahoo's 2014 acquisition of MessageMe, an app with similar features.

Livetext is Yahoo's first move back into messaging in recent years, after effectively abandoning the once-popular Yahoo Messenger. Messenger apps like WhatsApp and WeChat have proven explosively popular in recent years, leading to increased interest in across the industry. Facebook launched its own stand-alone messenger app earlier this year. It's still unclear how Yahoo plans to make money off of Livetext, but for now, the focus seems to be on building a strong user base. "We want to start by finding that audience," said Yahoo VP Adam Cahan. "Once you get to scale, there are opportunities to monetize."