SnapChat, the messaging and picture application known for its ephemeral take on the short message, is changing. The service can no longer expect to outlast competition by staying in the realm of short unconnected messages. The company, in a new update, which is set to hit App stores in the coming weeks, is adding weight to its messaging offering.

Snapchat

The new IM service can be accessed by swiping right on a friend’s name. That will open up a chat window where users can freely interact with their chosen conversation partner. When the window is closed, however, that text disappears, similar to a traditional SnapChat message.

Temporality is the new black

SnapChat has one simple to understand principle: people don’t necessarily like the permanence of the internet. In some cases people would prefer not to have their behaviour recorded and crawled by search engines for a hundred years. The messaging application originally rose up because of its security promise, and it is looking to bring that same feeling with presence.

Recording conversations is not what people want from their messaging app according to a blog post from the company. “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.”

It’s presence rather than permanence that people long for in their conversations. The instant messaging features that SnapChat is set to add bring a sense of presence to the conversations a user has on the app. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), which has huge interest vested in messaging, will be watching with bated breath.

SnapChat is big, but Facebook is bigger

Much of the social hype of the last year has centered around the power of messaging applications. According to the advice of analysts, traditional social networks were losing ground to mobile applications that centered around personal interaction. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), they said, was becoming too cluttered with advertising and grandparents. SnapChat was new and cool. It still is, though that may not last forever.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has had a strong presence in messaging for years, and the company is now doing its best to dominate that particular area of social interaction. Between its own messenger app and the recently acquired WhatsApp Facebook owns a huge chunk of the messaging market. SnapChat has to beat that monolith back if it wants to succeed.

SnapChat is, according to some studies, the fastest growing social media app among teens. The addition of extra functionality may make those teens more engaged, particularly as it sticks to the company’s core principle of ephemerality. Many of the app’s users may not be able to pronounce the word, but they sure know what it means.

SnapChat gives the impression that one is protected from the indelibility of the internet. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter all that much. Nobody else is offering anything like the same feeling at the same scale.