With Its New App, Tumblr Is Moving Beyond Looping Videos and Memes to Live Video and Messaging

Cabana is a ‘digital couch’ for livestreaming

Cabana is initially rolling out on iPhones. An Android version will be available in May. - Credit by Tumblr
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Tumblr is making a bigger bet on video. Today the Yahoo-owned site is launching an app called Cabana that lets up to six users at a time video chat with one another. Users can also watch YouTube clips within the app via an API integration. Tumblr is initially launching Cabana for iPhones, with an Android version expected in May.

Tumblr’s app encourages users to add friends and contacts they already know, much like existing video conferencing and messaging apps including Snapchat, WeChat and Facebook Messenger.

“The new ‘digital couch,’ Cabana brings together video chat and streaming video content to reimagine the physical experience of friends spontaneously gathering for social viewing and entertainment,” Tumblr said in a statement.

To use the app, Tumblr users can either find friends using the phone’s contact list or by searching for usernames within the app, not unlike how people find friends on Snapchat. From there, users have the option of either accepting or ignoring friend requests and can set up mini chat rooms that up to six people can join. Once in a room, users can click on buttons to flip their phone’s built-in camera around or turn off the sound. There’s also a feature near the top of the screen that lets people search for YouTube clips.

According to Tumblr, the app was conceived by an incubator group called Polyvore Labs—Tumblr acquired Polyvore in 2015—and performed well with 13- to 18-year-olds in tests and surveys.

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.