San Francisco - Twitter said users of its Vine video application can now send their contacts private videos and other messages, stepping up competition with Facebook in the mobile-messaging market.

The feature’s introduction means Twitter and Facebook both now offer multiple ways for their users to chat without using basic text messages.

Twitter, which also lets users directly message one another through its main smartphone application, is adding the communication capability to Vine just months after Facebook’s Instagram mobile photo-sharing application made it possible for people to do the same.

Facebook also has a separate Messenger software and agreed to buy messaging service WhatsApp in February for $19 billion.

Smartphone users are increasingly using messaging apps to communicate rather than paying for text messages, making the companies that provide the service more valuable.

TangoMe, a WhatsApp competitor, was valued at more than $1 billion in a funding round last month, while Rakuten announced a deal to buy Viber Media for $900 million in February.

Snapchat, the popular application for sending disappearing annotated photos, rebuffed a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook last year.

“From Vine’s early days, we recognised that there was a growing desire and need for private messaging on Vine,” Twitter said in a blog post yesterday.

“We’ve watched the community come up with some clever ways to send videos to their friends as we’ve been working on this solution.”

Twitter’s new feature lets Vine users send their short videos to friends even if they’re not using the application, the company said. Videos can be sent to multiple people, as well as those they aren’t friends with. - Bloomberg News