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Tumblr is launching a video chat app called Cabana

The blogging company is “exploring a new direction,” according to CEO David Karp.

WIRED BizCon 2014 Thos Robinson/Getty Images for WIRED

Tumblr, the blogging platform owned by Yahoo, is launching a group video chat app called Cabana, the company’s first real foray into building a communications or video app.

Cabana lets up to six users video chat together at the same time and stream YouTube videos to watch while chatting. Tumblr is framing it as a “digital couch,” and while the app is not specific to teens, the company says it “tested really well” with 13- to 18-year-olds.

“[We’re] not pivoting, but definitely exploring a new direction here,” said Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp, who added that the blogging platform is still the company’s main focus.

Karp says he fell in love with the app when he saw a demo a few months back from Polyvore Labs, a product incubator inside Yahoo. The idea is that Cabana can offer a more intimate experience than Tumblr. Instead of interacting with strangers over shared interests, Cabana pulls in contacts from your address book.

The idea is similar to Houseparty, the app from the company behind former livestreaming darling Meerkat, which recently raised $50 million. It’s also similar to Airtime, Sean Parker’s chat startup that was revived a year ago to offer a similar group chat experience.

Cabana doesn’t mean Tumblr has plans to launch a bunch of consumer apps moving forward, Karp said.

“We’ve not been inclined [in the past] to launch standalone apps,” Karp said. “This was definitely a new kind of direction and experiment for us, and we’re going into it with open minds.”

Cabana launches Tuesday on iOS and will launch its Android version in May.


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