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WhatsApp launches video-chat challenger to FaceTime, Skype

The popular messaging and voice app adds video call option, joining a crowded field.

WhatsApp adds ability to make video calls from within the popular app.

FaceTime and Skype have a new rival in the video-chat market: WhatsApp.

The maker of the hugely popular messaging and voice app said Monday it will soon add the ability to place free video calls from within the app. The feature, which is expected to be available in the coming days, will allow the app's more than 1 billion users to speak face to face with friends and family, regardless of whether they are using Android, iPhone and Windows devices.

"We're introducing this feature because we know that sometimes voice and text just aren't enough," WhatsApp said in a blog post late Monday. "And we want to make these features available to everyone, not just those who can afford the most expensive new phones or live in countries with the best cellular networks."

To place a video call, users merely open a chat, click the phone icon, choose the video call option in the menu and start talking.

The app is the latest example of the tech industry's love affair with video chat apps. Other messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, have text, voice and video calls all baked into one. Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo also offer video chatting, which they hope will attract more users to their mobile properties.

Founded in 2009, WhatsApp started out as a basic text-messaging app but rolled out a voice-calling feature last year, which is now used to place 100 million voice calls every day. The app is also popular among users concerned with privacy and security, thanks to its ability to provide end-to-end encryption.

The Facebook-owned app reached a milestone in February when it announced it had reached the 1 billion users mark.