Thoughts on entrepreneurship, startups, and tech.


Messaging Apps Hold Our Future

Who hasn't used a messaging app. They're extremely practical because it's not always appropriate to voice call someone. And also, because of the sheer number and variety of features they contain. Besides basic texting, most support full-size photos, video, audio (voice) messages, ephemeral messaging, read receipts, stickers, emojis & gifs. Some go as far as offering polls, file exchange, public/private groups & channels, replies, mentions & hashtags, secret chats, bots, payments & commerce, app integrations, video calling, stories and all this across cloud-based seamless sync where you can access your messages from several and different (mobile, tablet, desktop) devices at once. With all that functionality, no wonder standard voice traffic has taken a plunge, and social network usage is taking an ever steeper nose dive. And this is just a start. Messaging (data) apps hold our future because they integrate increasingly compelling features tied around one simple core concept - private one2one communication.

Humans are a tribal species. We don't like being isolated and curiously, are uncomfortable in large numbers. What we strive for, when at a distance, is being able to communicate like we do every day at school, the office or sports club - either one to one or as part of a small group. Previous technology has long been bypassed. Conference calls were a mess from the start. Group video is hardly better. Social networks didn't let us do that, or they made it impractical. Even the latest incumbents are quivering. Look at what people are doing on Instagram & Snapchat today, both platforms are inherently visual stages but depending on demographics, the majority of users are messaging. Which is why we're witnessing a massive shift to messaging apps because they're better at - texting - but offer equally, if not more appealing visual capabilities bundled with better flexibility and superior functionality.

So the rise of pure players like WeChat, Line, Viber, Telegram, and Signal is not a surprise, and they're paving the way (frantically competing) to tomorrow. And this spells trouble for primarily Facebook Corp (FB, Messenger, Instagram & WhatsApp) but also Microsoft (who can't make sense of Skype), Google (who keep fumbling with their various messaging products) and both manufacturers and telco's (that are losing voice) who are working hard to deploy RCS (Rich Communication Services) to keep up. And Apple in all this? They're staying proprietary but objectively are in the best position to transform their iMessage platform into a full-fledged communication suite "i-atmosphere" because it’s already got a glorified app ecosystem, enormous developer following, stored credit cards, a robust payments system and most of all, tons of consumer and professional trust (privacy). But, there are others who are in the shadows and could join the bandwagon.

It wouldn't be accurate if I included Slack, Teams, Discord, Twist, and Flock as designated participants in this race, but I cannot imagine that at least one of them (and maybe others that are in the making) will not make the leap (work-life advocates may deplore, but there's a button for that). Live chat authorities like Intercom, Userengage, Freshchat, Drift, Live Agent, Crisp, and Landbot are going to have to make a choice who to partner with, because customer service is a perfect target for messaging 4.0, nothing could be simpler than having those endless conversations continue on a convenient platform (CRM purists will rejoice). Logically, this leaves all those (never-ending) vertical chatbots scurrying for the crumbs, while they can.

Conversations are everywhere (private, websites, retail, education, medical, telco, etc), which is what messaging is all about, and transactions are looming, and the majors know this. There are those that have messaging and will continue to develop their reach. Tencent will roll up QQ, QZone, WeChat & Weibo and pursue its cashless crusade, YouTube will be merged and improved with an Alphabet platform (Duo, Allo, Hangouts), Apple will release iMessage across platforms and turn it into a social network X (think about real-time conversation around music, movies, TV, podcasts, audiobooks, and photos). Last but not least, Facebook might pivot to stay alive and not be forced to break up - imagine if they blended their portfolio and transformed into a authenticate advertising company (incentivized consumerism) by buying Omnicom or Publicis...?

Those that don't have explicit messaging (yet) will also make a move. Microsoft will merge Skype, Teams & Linkedin and together will swallow Meetup & Eventbrite to bridge the gap between on-offline business, Twitter will take Reddit, Snapchat & TikTok in hopes of ruling insight and live video (news), Pinterest will soon be part of Amazon increasing visual & social search and will likely grab a small pure-player for conversation, Tumblr & Flickr will be bought by Adobe and integrated into a visual suite (with a purchase in the freelance marketplace sphere like Dribbble). And I wouldn't be surprised to see Netflix, Spotify, ESPN & AirBNB making foray's into these areas given the current level of social noise on these topics.

Some final thoughts. Messaging is ubiquitous and will continue to further its presence in our everyday lives, swarming our interests and leisure activities and merging our private and professional lives. An e-mail will stay (for extended, thoughtful information) but short-links (Telegram's invention) open up tremendous opportunities without sharing our mobile numbers. Our local coffee shops will soon be on our contact list, and our calendars will update seamlessly with trip details discussed and purchased, either alone or with friends (and Ai will take care of translating everything). Making appointments, sending gifts, receiving e-commerce orders and exchanging with teachers will all take place within a conventional flow. Whatever evolution, there will be fewer apps, passwords, and protocols, conversations will converge just as loyalty cards have. Maybe all of this will have an unexpected positive effect; forcing us to think twice before writing something ;-)