Mobile messaging applications have become more than a paradigm for commercial success but a platform for new systems of innovation.
I can remember instant messaging as always being a core part of my internet experience. From the early chat rooms of Prodigy and Compuserve I learned to find connection and build friendships with remote strangers based on our affinity for comic books, Beatles albums and movies. As the web evolved, messaging was always still there in the background, as an important part of life, yet considered to be separate from the “web”. That reality has changed quickly.
Life in SLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile, that is)
In the 8 years of hyperspace that we’ve traveled since the smartphones hit the market its become increasingly more clear. The traditional text message (SMS) fused with instant messaging technology to create a wave of social computing yet unheard of. When you stop to think about the layers of functionality that have been introduced and integrated on the mobile platforms, it is really astounding: photo, video, voice, live-streaming.
Applications that offer a personal experience using one or more of these capabilities are the new normal; they are the most popular and growing by the day.
Further, some of these apps, including Whatsapp, Wechat, Slack and Voxer are bridging mediums and arguably becoming platforms for new types of innovation. What’s the distinction of a platform, you might ask.
Platforms allow ecosystems to develop
If you work in a team environment, especially software, you’ve probably experienced Slack. Inspired by a 45 year-old technology but using 21st century tools, Slack provides a grass-roots platform for collaboration and informal communication within enterprises of all sizes. But the thing that really has made it a smashing success is the ecosystem that surrounds it; there is a plug-in for just about developer tool on the market. These plug-ins allow developers to create their own best-of-breed project management system — something greater than any of the component parts.
The Slack ecosystem is pale in comparison to what’s happened in China with Wechat. This messaging based application leverages QRCodes and chat to provide a smartphone based platform of search, reviews, peer-to-peer payments and various other tools. New businesses are spinning-up daily on the Wechat platform, and operating at a scale that gives Facebook’s mega-messaging applications, Messenger and Whatsapp, a run for their money.
These applications are not alone. It seems daily there are new entrants. One of my personal favorites is Voxer, which provides ‘walkie-talkie’ style voice communication for groups and individuals (think Nextel phones in app form). I became intrigued by this after watching my wife and her network marketing colleagues use it as an entire business platform for conference calls, offline training and 1:1 catch-ups with colleagues. It breaks the mold that assumes messaging had to be typed on a keyboard.
The next frontier
I think that Benedict Evans had it right when he said we probably can’t predict where this will go. I find some of the scenarios he describes regarding Facebook Messenger to be intriguing, especially when you think about technologies like Twilio and Intercom, which have revolutionized enterprise communication by providing a messaging and telephony backbone for web-applications. Could they too be disrupted once Facebook wants to be the intermediary for web-apps, cars and couriers? Time will tell.
A couple of interesting stories in the news during the last week or two which should interest those following the messaging space:
- Facebook released a new guide for businesses that wish to provide a ‘live chat’ capability to their audiences via their Facebook page. The catch is that FB gets to put up a ‘responsiveness rating’ for your page! Read more…
- Slack has followed in Facebook’s footsteps by creating an “add to Slack” button for website owners. Read more…
Originally published at Adam Monago.