At the end of March, Snapchat added video chat and audio calls to its existing service. Not your typical upgrade -- but analysts say it points to some big moves ahead.
“When a platform rolls out its ‘2.0’ self, they signal the market of their intentions,” says Forrester analyst Jenny Wise.
What are Snapchat’s intentions, exactly?
“Snapchat is starting to bring out the big tech guns ahead of their move to go public this year,” according to Wise.
Before it does, however, the popular messaging app has to grow its functionality, Wise suggests.
“Snapchat is following the feature-trend to compete with services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that have already incorporated voice calling and interactive features,” she says. “Given these apps survive based on network effects, only the largest player wins and few of these messaging apps can make it in the long run.”
More broadly, “Snapchat’s addition of new real-time communication features is a strategic move to increase reach and usage,” Wise notes.
What does Wise think of Snapchat’s long-term prospects?
Working in its favor, “The Snapchat experience is much more inherently mobile, one of the largest platforms [that] is offering everything -- text, voice, video, and stickers/emoji -- seamlessly, giving them an interesting edge.”
In fact, to keep its features fresh, Snapchat just bought emoji maker Bitstrips for a reported $100 million.
Wise certainly isn’t alone in her bullishness. In a few short years, Snapchat’s market value has ballooned to $16 billion, while the company is reportedly targeting between $300 million and $350 million in revenue in 2016 -- six to seven times the $50 million in revenue it projected last year.