The chat tools work largely the same as any other social media app: users can open a conversation with each other, though they can also share routes and activities from the app itself.
It does have some limitations, however, including requiring users to opt into the feature and giving them the option to only receive messages from friends. That should help limit the amount the tool is used for harassment and unwanted messages, for instance.
Strava’s chief business officer, Zip Allen, told The Independent that “safety is a high priority on Strava – the safety of our community, and the ability to feel safe on Strava is core to the experience”. “That’s why we’ve always put the control in our users hands, on what and how they share on Strava”.
Strava operates largely as a social media app for fitness: users can post their activities such as bike rides and runs from a wide variety of different hardware such as those made by Garmin, and comment on other activities from people they follow. But it has never allowed its users to message each other, and interaction has been limited to comments on other people’s orofiles.
The company is “super stoked” to be announcing the feature, Allen said. “The magic of Strava is in that connection and belonging that people feel, and so messaging is really the next iteration of what that feels like”.
“Our community has been asking about this for a while – you look at Reddit forums, and our athletes always want the opportunity to communicate and to celebrate in more private spaces. And it’s a step change in what’s going to be possible on Strava,” she said.
For now, messaging is limited to the mobile app and is not available on the web. It is available for all users, whether they pay for Strava’s premium tier or not.
The company will be watching the rollout of the feature and may make changes to it as it is made available to more people, Allen said. At the moment, for instance, the app does not support sharing photos, which is currently being worked on.
The app does however have the option to react in chats with emojis, by long pressing on a message, which brings up the usual option as well as Strava’s laurel wreath. Users can also use a Giphy integration to send GIFs.
Strava expects the chats to stay largely focused on fitness and workouts, Allen said, such as users organising runs or discussing their preparation for events. The new features that might come in the future will be built around the company’s mission of encouraging people to take part in movement rather than encouraging them to stay within the app, she said.
“The intention is to really understand how our athletes use this feature, how they're using it to coordinate, communicate and celebrate around their active life,” she said. “And as we understand how they are using it, we'll look at what makes sense in the experience.
“We are a platform that is first and foremost about making sure that we are meeting the needs of our athletes and what they want to be able to get back out there and do their next thing.”