Facebook is reportedly set to launch a Snapchat-like photo messaging app before end of the year, according to All Things D which reports that the service is currently in testing.

Snapchat has grown strongly this year thanks to its unique feature that lets users share photos that are given expiry dates. For example, an image can be set to 10 seconds, after which time it is deleted from the sender and recipient’s phones, as well as Snapchat’s own service. ATD says Facebook’s app will include a similar ‘self-destructing’ feature which could leave Facebook open to more ‘sensitive’ images from users, since Snapchat has hit headlines as a ‘sexting’ app.

Facebook’s Messenger app relays private messaging between users so the introduction of a new app would give it a multimedia-rich real-time chat option that its users currently don’t have. Although it remains to be seen if Snapchat-like features could be added to either Facebook’s Messenger or Camera apps.

The new app would take Facebook to four standalone mobile applications — alongside its main app, Messenger and Camera — while it also owns Instagram, which has retained its own brand post-acquisition.

snapchat trio 730x427 Facebook to reportedly launch Snapchat like app in the coming weeks

Facebook has, of course, been linked with a move to buy WhatsApp lately and there’s little doubt that the company can do a lot more on mobile. It’s purchase of Instagram — currently beset by new issues around whether Twitter bid for it — has shown that Mark Zuckerberg is prepared to release apps that are separate to its main service, but there are some questions over a possible Snapchat competitor.

Given that it agreed to buy Instagram for an agreed $1 billion, Facebook might be expected to show interest in acquiring Snapchat outright, particularly as it is far less established and unlikely to fetch such a hefty price.

By contrast, there may be resistance since Snapchat is so new and, with more than a billion users, Facebook has the potential to surpass its user base — in terms of figures, at least — quickly. There may also be concern that a deal could see Facebook positioned as an open house for would-be-acquired mobile startups that have gained traction.

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