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Snapchat is introducing a new Groups feature today that lets users converse with up to 16 friends at a time.

Snapchatters can create a group while initiating a snap or when starting a new chat. You can also start one-to-one chats, called Quick Chats, from within a group by tapping the person’s name, and you can subsequently switch between the two conversations.

Extending support to groups of friends makes sense for Snapchat, given the competition it’s up against, including Facebook’s suite of apps — such as Messenger and WhatsApp — which all support group chats. With Snapchat reportedly mulling an IPO in early 2017, it wants to be as sticky as possible and give its users less of a reason to use other services.

The story so far

Snapchat shot to fame for its photo-messaging app that lets friends “chat” with each other through images that disappear up to 10 seconds after they’re received. However, it has long transcended its ephemeral photo roots, and has offered private messaging, public content, live events, and voice / video-calling for a while. In September this year, Snapchat changed its official company name to Snap Inc. and revealed its first play in the hardware realm with funky new camera glasses called Spectacles.

Though Snapchat has evolved greatly since its inception more than five years ago, the company is careful to remember its ephemeral roots. Indeed, the new group messages are deleted by default after 24 hours, and snaps sent to a Group can only be viewed once by each member.

Alongside the new Groups feature, Snapchat says it is also rolling out a duo of new creative tools, called Scissors and Paintbrush. The tools are pretty much self-explanatory, in that you can use Scissors to cut out part of a photo on the preview screen and transform it into a sticker, while the Paintbrush tool can be used to spruce up photos that you’ve saved to your Memories archive.

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