International platforms win the game

In my last blog post, I explained the relationship between a contact and its identifiers. The sum of all identifiers defines a contact and indicates which platforms can be used to reach them. In this blog post, I want to share some thoughts about these platforms.

What am I talking about? When referring to platforms, people usually mean Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. But let’s consider platforms from a more technical perspective. GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) can also be considered as technical communication platforms. The difference between Facebook and GSM is the inclusion or exclusion of other players. Facebook owns the platform and controls access to it, this approach is exclusive in my view. Let’s call platforms like Facebook, Linkedin and Xing “exclusive platforms”. GSM and SMTP or GPS are technical standards that are open to multiple partners. That’s the reason you can call a person served by a different mobile provider than yours. In my world, these platforms are inclusive and open, so let’s call them “inclusive platforms”.

There are some really interesting similarities and differences between these two approaches. Presumably, communication is the primary purpose in both cases. It is true that I can communicate in a much “richer” way on exclusive platforms. I can send videos, text, audio messages, and interact with others in a much more complex way than I could with a simple phone call, but in principle, it’s still communication. The comparison between WhatsApp and SMS makes this very clear. In principle, the use case is the same — I want to text someone. But the group messaging feature added the small edge that made WhatsApp better than SMS from a feature point of view.

Source: Synca GmbH

There is another big difference here. Inclusive platforms are owned by telco companies and exclusive platforms are owned by internet companies. The telco providers only charge you for the data package that enables you to use services like WhatsApp and Facebook. Internet companies offer their platform internationally and make their money with your data. I can add a friend on Facebook from Spain if I want to, without any problem. There is no extra cost attached to it and we use the same platform to communicate. Telco providers are more nationally focused. There are “international” companies, but they still offer national packages to national customers. Let’s say my friend, Álvaro, is the customer of a national Spanish telco provider. If I’m in Austria, I can still add his number and call him, but I’ll be subject to extra roaming fees.

Another similarity between inclusive and exclusive platforms is a problem they share: it’s currently difficult to migrate a number/profile from one platform to another. Most of the world’s telco customers have made it possible in the last few years to migrate a phone number from one telco provider to another (on a national level, not on an international one). In Europe, roaming fees will be abolished by June 2017 and telco providers will start to compete on an international level for their customers. In the social platform world, it is not possible at all to migrate my Xing profile to LinkedIn.

What is all this leading to? Inclusive platforms are open by design but nationally organized, exclusive platforms are closed by design but internationally organized. There is fierce competition between all of them and the “one platform takes it all” approach from the internet companies is a huge fear factor for the telco providers. The solution for the telco provides is to open up the market on an international level and become truly global communication service providers for their customers. A few things need to be done to achieve this, which I’ll go over in my next blog post.

Originally published at