Visual Messaging Platforms are the OS of Communication

The market for communication apps and platforms is changing rapidly and has been doing so for decades now. Communication is one of the very few markets where startups can claim a share of a trillion-dollar market and this space has room for many types of entrants and disruptions.

If we look down memory lane of communication, we see that social media overtook email in 2009. In 2015, messaging overtook social media in monthly active users in the top 4 social platforms.

By 2020, the number of messaging accounts will reach a whopping 4.1 billion according to the Radicati group. That equals an average annual growth rate of 6% since 2016.

The State of Current Messaging

From SMS to Facebook Messenger, the current messaging platforms and apps are flourishing due to a number of reasons:

  • Messaging is fast and easy.
  • The command line makes messaging powerful and flexible
  • Messaging is simple and uses common languages
  • The command line makes it familiar across platforms
  • Texting has proven superior on mobile

The growth of mobile usage, devices and apps have made messaging extremely potent and powerful, and is spreading to desktop with even more advanced features. We increasingly communicate with bots and integrate cloud services. Much of this power is being accessed with command-line communication.

We’re now using messaging commands as we used to with Operating System (OS) commands. In a web-centric world, messaging is the new OS for communication. Across platforms, apps and devices, we can access new and powerful capabilities with messaging. Just as we could access a calculator or spreadsheet from our computers with the OS, we can now communicate with taxis and coffee machines with messaging.

The Rise of the Visual Messaging Platforms

With the explosion in the number of API’s and IoT around us, we need to rethink connectivity from the ground-up. We need ways to organize, structure and manage people, stores and connected IoT devices, while we stay efficient and productive.

By 2020, analysts expect us to have 34 billion connected devices at our households and workplaces. That’s an explosive growth, which need new ways of communication, structure and management. Messaging is uniquely positioned to tackle this challenge, yet the way we organize and structure our communication is yet to be solved.

We also see an aggressive push to introduce apps based on conversational commerce. These apps enable people to message stores directly for orders and services creating a direct relationship from vendor to consumer powered by messaging.

Communicating with people, stores and devices will make communication even more fragmented than it is today. Modern communication is already fragmented with emails, chat threads, website links, attachments being tossed around cloud services and various messaging apps.

MS-DOS, UNIX and other OS’ have all developed from command-line centric to becoming visual and desktop oriented. While most OS has kept the command-line handily away with just a few clicks, what you experience first are windows, folders and icons.

For many, entering CALC (to open the calculator) is faster than finding a specific icon and clicking on it. But the Graphical User Interface (GUI) helped users to easily see, organize and manage all functions available — thus opening the power of the OS to a much larger audience. The GUI in OS didn’t kill the command-line. It built upon it.

Just as the OS’ capabilities and features increased dramatically over the years, we’re starting to see the same thing happening with modern messaging. And the command line will increasingly be challenged by visual messaging platforms.

While the command line is easy and powerful to developers, it is less intuitive for others to access powerful commands. I expect a change in how we use messaging moving from being command-line centric to becoming more visual. Just as operating systems introduced windows and icons, we’ll see visual messaging platforms introduce folders and cards.

Already now, we’re seeing cards becoming a visual design pattern for both mobile and desktop, and used by Twitter, Pinterest, Skarpline and Google. They are flexible, powerful, responsive and creative.

What makes visual messaging platforms extremely relevant is the ability to message, organize and collaborate in whole new ways. The new solutions will make it easy to organize people, stores and devices using cards and folders. People will collaborate and share to each other using touch and drag-and-drops. Messaging will be done using visual clicks as well as command-line. We’ll be able to organize the mess around us. From file to device, everything becomes connected visually to messaging platforms.

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.

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