Video calls with a catch: Yahoo launches Livetext service on Thursday

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Yahoo has taken all of the viral features of the most popular messaging apps and combined it into one monster of a service called Livetext.

Livetext lets users text each other while conducting a video call — with a catch: there’s no audio.

The thought is that audio inhibits “in the moment” video chats, but people still want to see one another while texting. It’s a risky bet and Yahoo is targeting young users who may want to talk to a friend during boring dinner parties with a little more interaction than just text.

Like Apple’s FaceTime, there’s no limit to how long conversations can last. You can use the front and rear facing cameras. You currently can’t add additional media files or send links.

Livetext displays text messages and emojis on the video screen like Twitter’s Periscope, doesn’t save or archive chats and media files like Snapchat, and organizes contact lists and friend requests like Snapchat too.

The group of friends you’ve contacted most recently appear as avatars, organized like Facebook Messenger.

The app will launch Thursday for users in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France on Android smartphones and iPhones. It’s already live in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

Yahoo has lacked a powerful messaging app as it has tried to bulk up its suite of mobile services. Like most other tech companies Yahoo is looking to rely increasingly on mobile products to make money.

At the end of the last quarter 20% of Yahoo’s revenue came from mobile. It reported 600 million monthly active mobile users, and total sales from mobile was up 55% from last year.