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After turning down a $3 billion offer to be acquired by Facebook, Snapchat demanded the tech world’s attention. What was so special about this company that would give them the guts to give Mark Zuckerberg and his piles of cash a polite, if surprising, “no thank you”? Part of the answer might be hidden in today’s announcement of “Chat,” a new feature coming to Snapchat that might actually transform it from smartphone fad to must-have app.

In a new post on the Snapchat blog today, the team explains the new Chat feature, saying that you’ll be able to simply start chatting in an SMS-like conversation window. When you leave Chat, the conversation is gone forever—in true Snapchat style. More interestingly, once you’re both conversing, you can simply tap a button on the screen and start a video Chat.

This video touting the new Chat feature gives a good idea as to what’s in store for Snapchat users:

Overall, nothing about either of these new features is going to set the world on fire. As you can probably tell, we’ve got these features already in other apps. In fact, Google Hangouts already offers all of the same features found in Snapchat, including the new Chat features that allow for instant messaging-type conversations and video chat. So what’s the benefit of bringing these features to Snapchat?

The answer probably has a lot to do with Snapchat’s huge user base. It’s officially way cooler than anything Google can make—and the tumbleweeds that live on Google+ and the never-ending stories of how silly Google Glass-wearers look are proof enough of the company’s seemingly futile quest to be “hip.” Add the fact that disappearing conversations is listed as a feature, and not a bug, and you’ve got an app that builds on what users liked the most about its previous iterations—disappearing, ephemeral pictures and videos—that’s expanded to its next logical conclusion. Moreover, the interface does look to be extremely simple to use, so I can see another added benefit for users who want to text or video chat without any potential UI issues getting in the way

For me, Snapchat remains an app in which I have little to no interest. As I mentioned above, Hangouts does everything Snapchat is boasting about. And with Hangouts I don’t have to take extra steps, like taking a screenshot, to keep a record of my conversation. But if you already like what Snapchat does, then it’s entirely possible that the new Chat features are exactly what you’ve been hoping for.

[Snapchat Blog]

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