Marissa Mayer, president and chief executive officer at Yahoo! Inc., right, speaks with Adam Cahan, senior vice president of Mobile and Emerging Products, at Yahoo! as they leave a press conference at the Yahoo! Inc. Mobile Developer Conference in San Francisco, California, on February 19, 2015.
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Erin Griffith
July 29, 2015

Silence is a big theme online these days. Facebook’s autoplay videos have the sound off by default. Ringtones are basically the scourge of society. And today, Yahoo has launched a video messaging app that has no sound whatsoever.

Called LiveText, the messaging app aims to blend text messaging with video chat. At a press conference in the New York offices of Yahoo subsidiary Tumblr, Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s SVP of video, design and mobile products, explained that live video calling hasn’t caught on as much as people expected it to. The reason, he said, is because video is “too formal” and users are rarely in the position to chat with the sound turned on.

LiveText shows a video stream with a text conversation on top. Users can toggle between different conversations at once, so it’s not as “formal” as a one-on-one video chat. Group sessions are not yet available. The idea is that users can see an immediate reaction to what they type in their friend’s facial expression.


But why does Yahoo need a messaging app? Cahan explained: Many Yahoo users primarily use its communications tools, including email and instant messaging. With the shift to mobile, Yahoo needs to have a presence there, too. “We want to find that new and expressive way of communicating,” he said.

Like Snapchat, the video chats are shot vertically and disappear after a session ends. Like Apple’s Facetime video calling service, two users only see each other when they’re using the app at the same time. Like Twitter’s livestreaming app Periscope, it combines text and video communication. It also has hints of MessageMe, the messaging app which Yahoo acquired last October. MessageMe co-founder Arjun Sethi led the development efforts on LiveText, which Yahoo says was built from scratch.

The app is available in the U.S. and select other countries tomorrow.


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