Messaging platforms & the old chimera of VRM
Benoit Vidal

Really solid article. One of the benefits of messaging services, is that workflow automation requires users to define their processes by information requirements, setting the stage for VRM. When you do that in small enough units to work at the per-message level, you’re defining demand-side data requirements at the atomic level — which is vital to both justifying (and limiting) data use.

I am, however, surprised by the conspicuously absent mention of SMS in this piece — not only because it was the original platform (and remains the largest by a long shot) for the dynamics you’re describing, but also because it (mostly) operates without the kind of data compromises inherent in the other social, service, or app-based platforms you describe. Outside of mobile network operators, SMS data is not typically sold to third parties. Users pay per message, meaning the market incentives align more closely to user-centric control (as do many telecom regulations).

The missing piece has been getting businesses and organizations to invest the time and energy to define their core processes in message-based/atomic units — which the platforms that you’ve described are doing centrally. The movement of the market toward conversational interfaces should help stoke that kind of investment. That said, unique process definition — as much as any single data point — are important for users to own. That’s one of the core reasons I focus on building decentralized messaging automation tools. We’ll integrate with social platforms, but our bet is that organizations will want direct relationships with their customers, that they design themselves (with a bit of help), as well as the data that comes from them. It’s certainly possible that social platforms may turn into markets for those automations, but it will be very, very interesting to see what happens when we start to market (and protect the IP around) business processes as proprietary logic.

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