Snapchat lets up to 16 members meet on its new group messaging service

Snapchat now lets you privately converse with up to 16 friends

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Snapchat’s a one-stop shop these days. Sure, the ephemeral social media app lets you circulate 10-second selfies among friends, but that’s only scratching the surface. It boasts a bevy of location-based filters, titles, stickers, and highlighter colors; public Stories comprised of chronological snaps; a Discover channel of ad-supported short-form content; and person-to-person private messaging. Lest you thought Snapchat was lacking, though, it gained a brand-new feature on Tuesday: group messaging.

Now, you and up to 15 of your closest buddies can participate in a group message. Your chat companions are visible at the bottom of the interface, and tapping on a participant’s name starts a private Quick Chat with said Group member. Users can share Snaps within the group that behave like normal messages: they can be opened once and replayed once. And true to Snapchat’s impermanent nature, the content of Group exchanges isn’t saved for posterity — it’s all purged after 24 hours.

This is not the only new feature bound for Snapchat’s sea of users. A new Scissor tool, launching on iOS first and Android in the coming weeks, lets you “snip” a part of a Snap to produce a sticker, and then save it to Snapchat’s sticker drawer. A Paintbrush effect applies an artistic layer to Snaps saved to your Memories archive. And music ID service Shazam is now tightly integrated with Snapchat’s camera — tapping the “Shazam” button lets you identify music within the Snapchat app. (A list of previously identified songs are available from the Settings menu.)

The upgraded app is rolling out now to the App Store on iOS and Google Play store on Android.

Groups is emblematic of Snapchat’s broadening scope. The app, which launched in 2012 as a means to exchange private, self-destructing messages between friends, has grown into a veritable juggernaut. Snap, Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, launched its first hardware product this year: Spectacles. The $130 augmented reality sunglasses, which capture 10-seconds Snaps with a built-in camera, are available from pop-up vending machines in select cities across the U.S. They’ve been met with meteoric demand, selling for hundreds of dollars over retail on eBay and generating hours-long lines.

Given Snapchat’s momentum, that’s not much of a surprise. The app’s active daily users total 150 million, almost half of whom — 60 million — live in the U.S., and it is projected to generate more than $935 million this year alone. It counts CapitalG, Google’s venture capital arm, among its backers, which also include Fidelity, Alibaba, Tencent, Saudi investment group Kingdom Holding Company, and Lightspeed. Snap filed for an initial public offering in November, with a projected valuation between $25 billion to $35 billion.

But Snap’s not resting on its laurels. The company acquired Los Angeles, California-based Vurb, a search and recommendation app, for $110 million in August. And it purchased Bitstrips, the startup behind personalized comic strip service Bitmoji, for $100 million in March. Support for the latter materialized earlier this year: using the Bitmoji app, you can insert a cartoon character version of yourself in Snaps and Stories.

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