Snapchat brings chat and calls to the web for paid subscribers

Snapchat features like screen capture, chat and video calling are coming to desktop through a new web app, marking the first time the company has made its service available beyond smartphones.

With Snapchat for web, you can log in with your Snapchat account and private message or call friends on desktop. Initially, the web platform will be available exclusively to Snapchat Plus subscribers, and this is the first major feature launch since Snap announced its paid tier in June. Subscribers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will have access first. Snapchat will only be compatible with Google’s Chrome browser and not Apple’s Safari.

Although Snapchat was created as a visual messaging app, its messaging product manager, Nathan Boyd, says a web-based offering makes sense because its users use desktop computers more frequently. Snapchat for the web gives users additional space to chat and call in the same window, with Snap’s AR lenses coming soon. With people using computers more during the pandemic — and the new school year approaching — Boyd said Snap wants to bring more of its products to the web over time.

Yes, Snapchat for web always opens on your camera (webcam). You can also change your Bitmoji from the web.
Picture: Snap

Snap positions itself primarily as an AR platform for its lenses, but the app’s primary use case remains messaging and private, ephemeral calls. This puts the web version of Snapchat in competition with Meta’s Discord and WhatsApp, which is also available on desktop. Boyd says 100 million people call each other on Snapchat each month, spending an average of more than 30 minutes a day, and chatting is usually the last thing people do before closing the app.

“We are always looking for ways to meet our community where it is,” he said in an interview. “It just felt like something that was an unmet opportunity.”

Rolling out web expansion to subscribers first indicates that the company is serious about its paid tier as an additional way to earn money. Snap is under unprecedented pressure to monetize its 332 million daily active users – more users than Twitter – as management warns revenue growth is slowing. Although the desktop version will initially contain no ads – Snap’s main source of revenue – the hope is that it will keep loyal users coming back.