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If you’re one of Snapchat’s 40 million users, then you probably woke up this morning to a video announcement from teamsnapchat, showing off some of the app’s newest features: video chat, and instant messaging.

According to their latest blog post (which they so cleverly titled, “Putting the Chat into Snapchat”) the Snapchat team decided that the best way to improve the functionality of the app was to give it presence.

“There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting.”

While some Snapchat users may only send the occasional picture with a funny caption, or update their story with a photo or video every once in a while, others use Snapchat as a tool for keeping in touch with or regularly communicating with friends in a way that goes beyond a boring text message. For those people, the instant messaging feature gives them the opportunity to send a longer message (the character limit on pictures/videos is awfully short) to accompany their snaps. It also gives users the opportunity to see when their friends are active on Snapchat, so they can better choose when to send them snaps.

Snapchat Instant Messaging

At first, the video chat feature seems a little over the top and unnecessary, but it might just prove to be highly useful. Now, if you want to video chat with someone, you have to use features like FaceTime or apps like Skype to make a video call, wait for the other person to connect, and there’s no truly fluid way to move back and forth between the front and back camera. Snapchat’s new video chat option is much simpler — you see that your friends are online, open an IM with them, and hit the video chat button. With a simple stroke of the screen, you can change cameras in no time, making it easier to share exactly what you want to share, when you want it.

Snapchat Video Chat Feature

So how does it all work? It’s all pretty simple, according to the blog.

“Swipe right on a friend’s name in your Snapchat inbox to start chatting. When you leave the chat screen, messages viewed by both you and your friend will be cleared – but either of you can always tap or screenshot to save anything you’d like to keep (addresses, to-do lists, etc.)!”

Snapchat has always been controversial app, especially after last year’s ‘Snapchat Leaked’ scandal, but with it’s latest string of updates, the user experience has vastly improved and the stigma that comes with using the app has mostly dissipated. Just don’t use it for sexting (really, don’t sext at all) or anything you’d be hurt or embarrassed by, because you never know when your snaps could become public or what the consequences could be.

Regardless of how you use the app, it’s nice to know you can finally, actually “chat” with Snapchat.

What do you think of Snapchat’s new features?