By Evan DeSimone
AOL has acquired Kanvas Labs, the maker of video and visual messaging apps, giving AOL a foothold in the increasingly competitive space currently dominated by Snapchat.
An AOL spokesman told VideoInk that the company plans an investment to help Kanvas scale its existing products and grow its millennial user base. Those products include photo and video editing app Kanvas and Kanvas Keyboard which allows users to add stickers, GIFs, visual and video content to their messaging streams, and Kanvas for Messenger, which ties both of those services into Facebook’s popular messaging app. This is AOL’s first major video move since being acquired by Verizon for $4.4 billion earlier this year and the first AOL acquisition in the video space since the company acquired video ad market Vidible late last year. New York-based Kanvas will be folded into AOL’s existing New York headquarters.
AOL is the latest internet giant showing an interest in visual and video messaging tools. The news comes just over a month after Yahoo announced the launch of LiveText, a new messaging service that allows users to integrate photo and video content along with stickers and emoji into their text conversations. Unlike LiveText, Kanvas puts video front and center with an array of editing features including six different editing modes for users to craft artsy GIFs, slow motion and time lapse videos, animations, drawings and slideshows.
Despite similarities between the two products, the real elephant in the room for Yahoo and AOL is upstart messaging app Snapchat. With advanced video options, Kanvas could potentially be a contender, but with Snapchat currently boasting nearly 200 million active users and a sky-high valuation of $16 billion, it remains the undisputed leader of the visual messaging industry.
In spite of its dominance, Snapchat has been shifting its focus from messaging with an eye towards becoming a media platform. The company recently inked deals with three new media partners to distribute content through its recently-launched Discover feature.