Everyone is cloning Snapchat right now, but messaging app Viber has gone back to the old school by copying Snapchat’s core ephemeral messaging feature.
Unlike Facebook, which has thrown Snapchat’s 24-hour Story mode into all of its core mobile apps, Viber — which was acquired by Rakuten for just shy of $1 billion three years ago — has copied the original feature that helped Snapchat first make its name in messaging.
Viber for iOS and Android got an update today that brings “Secret Chats” to the service for the first time. Like Snapchat, Facebook, Telegram and many others before it, Viber now enables its users to set a timer for their messages, after which they will self-destruct. The new feature also alerts a user if the person to whom they are talking takes a screenshot — that’s another feature that Snapchat pioneered.
Viber has claimed for some time that its service has more than 800 million registered users, but it has kept silent on how many of those are actually active — that’s the all-important number. It has a strong network of users in certain parts of Latin America and North Africa, and in Myanmar and the Philippines in Southeast Asia, but it is far from as universally popular as WhatsApp or Messenger.
It’s been a fairly hectic past few months of news for Viber. It named former mobile advertising executive Djamel Agaoua as its CEO last month — founding CEO Talmon Marco left the company some time ago; he currently runs Uber rival Juno — while it has added a range of new features that include an e-commerce button, public accounts, one-touch video calling and disappearing multimedia.
With the global messaging space pretty settled as the apps of choice have solidified their positions in most parts of the world, Viber appears to be pushing its security credentials in a bit to differentiate itself from the rest. It added end-to-end encryption and hidden chats last year, although researchers raised doubts around some of the company’s claims.