After a long period of near-extinction among the AIM set, Yahoo Messenger is staging a resurrection with Livetext, a mobile app for iOS and Android that lets you see your texting partner via video. There's only one catch: you can't actually talk to to them.
The app lets users pick a texting buddy from a friend list, inviting them to chat. Once an invite is accepted, a video call is placed; friends can then watch the reactions of their texting partners as they send emojis, messages and the like.
The idea was inspired by the poor audio quality many video apps have.
"It's actually the audio that makes it a very different and all-consuming forms of communication," said Yahoo senior vice president of mobile and emerging products Adam Cahan.
The app will certainly make the texting experience more immediate an interactive — if your friend is staring at you right in the eye, it makes it a bit more difficult to put down the phone and walk away.
While reviewing Livetext, Wired's David Pierce made no hesitation to hide his discomfort with the new app, even while extrapolating on its strange allure:
"You may not be able to talk or hear, but there's still something pretty disconcerting about opening an IM window and suddenly seeing your face. Or, if you hold your phone like a normal person, the underside of your chin. So I held it up awkwardly in front of my face, and looked for my best angle. I feel the need to say bye in every message, and laugh uproariously at everyone's jokes because just typing LOL won't do me any good when my friends can see I didn't actually LOL. Livetext doesn't feel less like a performance to me; it feels worse, like a performance I forgot was today and am suddenly thrust on stage for."
Pierce has more or less christened Livetext as the silent film of apps. Either way, there's no word on whether Charlie Chaplin will be making an appearance on Yahoo's delightfully strange messaging service.
Photo: Eric Hayes | Flickr