Users can now see if a friend is “Here” and simply swipe right on their name in the inbox, to start a live chat conversation.
All messages sent between the two are cleared when you leave the chat, but you can still save them by tapping the screen, or taking a screenshot.
Within this live conversation screen, users can send Snapchats, and for the first time send pictures from their camera roll.
In a blog post, the company wrote:
“Until today, we felt that Snapchat was missing an important part of conversation: presence. There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting.
“We could not be more thrilled to announce Chat.”
And if both friends are Here, they can now share live video which each other, by pressing and holding the screen.
If a user sees you online and wants to video call, they hold the screen, which makes their video pop up on your device, and you can dismiss or accept the invitation.
To stop the video chat, you take your finger off the screen.
Speaking to The Verge, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said:
“We’re trying to get rid of these weird boxes that we put media into and get to the essence of conversation – that we’re both here.
“The essence of conversation is not which media format we choose to talk to each other with, so we don’t differentiate between snaps and chats. It’s just someone wanting to talk to you.”
The update gives Snapchat more of a narrative, letting users engage in conversations, rather than sending disconnected pictures and videos, while also keeping true to their “deletion by default” philosophy.
Snapchat follows Instagram and Vine in offering private messaging, and the update comes a week after Facebook moved their messaging to a separate app and added live video chats.