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Viber ventures beyond messaging service with Public Chats

Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Viber have provided private communication options to users who may desire to steer clear of broadcasting on social networks. However, Viber is adding a feature called Public Chats – currently in beta – that is similar in function to Facebook’s News Feed.

With the new feature, Viber users able to post live conversation streams that can be seen by their contacts, Tech Crunch reports. The company has recruited a host of celebrity evangelists to help popularize the new function, including blogger Perez Hilton, artist Pixie Lott and DJ Paul van Dyk.

Public Chats will be rolled out on all Viber apps running version 5.0 or higher and initially best optimized for Android. It can be accessed from the app’s main menu, by clicking on the “compass” and finding users to follow. Not all conversation streams will be automatically viewable to all users, as Public Chats is still in beta.

Viber’s Public Chats may help “differentiate it from the rest of the crowded messaging app pack,” according to Tech Crunch. Its 209 million user base lags behind Facebook Messenger’s 500 million and WhatsApp’s 600 million users. The company was acquired by Rakuten of Japan for $900 million this year.

Viber has no plans to include advertising in the Public Chats, although CEO Talmon Marco suggests that it’s possible for popular Public Chats participants to cash in through product placement from the individual users.