Scale of Messaging Landscape 2017

“Take a moment think who would actually miss you if you deactivate all your social networking accounts, whatsapp, BBM etc” — Anamika Mishra

I’ve started a 30 day blogging challenge (more about it here and you can subscribe for the newsletter here). This is day two. Today I’ll be touching on one of the fastest growing categories in tech — messaging. Now bigger than social media, messaging apps are on practically every phone, and only growing in engagement. Caveat that this post is just my own learning process about Messaging and doesn’t cover the rapidly growing bot ecosystem or the vertical messaging apps (startups like Crew).

Today you message your friends and family mainly. Tomorrow, you’ll be messaging bots who will do your grocery shopping, book your travel and resolve your customer service issues. Search results in a few years from now, will not necessarily be on Google…

If you think about it, Messaging apps are the most viral. In order for the user experience to be fun and useful, you need to have friends in there, so connecting to your contacts and inviting people is inherent in the onboarding process of the apps.

And according to a recent report by eMarketer, worldwide consumption of messaging is projected to reach 1.82 billion people in 2017, an increase of 15.5% year over year. In absolute numbers, that translates into 243 million new mobile phone users worldwide that will start using mobile messaging apps this year.

Source: Messaging App Usage Worldwide: eMarketer’s Updated Forecast, Leaderboard and Behavioral Analysis

Messaging is “mostly” private. While Social Networks also enable you to share text, media and documents with your friend, there’s always a question for the user of who has access to that data. With Messaging, there’s a built-in assumption, that it’s a private communication. The reason I’m saying “mostly” is that not all platforms are encrypted. Here’s an interesting chart on who has access to your messages, by Amnesty International:

Who can read your private messages, by Amnesty

Even the biggest companies are susceptible to cyber attacks. This is from March 2017:

Testing that was conducted by Amnesty International shows that Signal Private Messenger (iOS, Play) by Open Whisper Systems is probably the best and easiest to use secure messaging app available today.

We give up privacy to avoid controversy

Controversy comes from authorities need to monitor communication to detect threats. Encryption, while it’s important to us as consumers, can come at a cost of others using the platforms for malicious purpose.

In summary

messaging apps are the new social networks, they are valuable, important and sticky. But they’re also not completely private and vulnerable to attacks.

So, where are Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon when it comes to messaging?

The space is crowded, but the large companies dominate the messaging category in the app stores.

Messaging Apps on the Play Store

Facebook offers messaging as part of every product

If you think bout it, you have your feed, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram has it’s own chat… and then you have Facebook for work, so you can keep chatting in the office. Facebook-owned WhatsApp is the number one messaging app in 107 countries around the world, and Facebook’s Messenger is number one in 58 countries, according to a SimilarWeb study.

Update (July 27th) — in its Q2 earnings call, Facebook released new stats: Whatsapp status (its snapchat clone) now has 250 million daily users. More on Techcrunch.

Apple concentrates on iMessage and Facetime

On Apple, all the messaging can elegantly by done via iMessage (text) and Facetime (audio, voip, video). The quality feels better than most other messaging apps, but functionality is limited.

Microsoft bet on Skype

Skype seems to have fared well in the migration from desktop to mobile. Used for both business and personal, Skype helps users engage with their entire rolodex.

Google’s strategy: Try Everything

Hangouts, Allo, Duo. Even though the dream of every consumer is to have the messaging apps somehow communicate with each other, Google is trying multiple strategies, to see what sticks.

The Verge summarised it well in this article from June 2016:

“So Google has three different ways it’s trying to get back into the messaging race. And again, it is very far behind. But when you’re behind in a race you can’t drop out of, there’s really only one thing you can do: just keep running.”

Snapchat started in messaging

Before Snapchat became a platform for media consumption, it was mainly used for ephemeral messaging. Teenagers replaced texting with Snapchat, but it’s still “only” around 166 millions daily active users. Snapchat is also concerned from getting every feature copied by Facebook, so it recently acqui-hired the team behind Strong.Code, a way to protect software against reverse engineering by obscuring the code.

Source: Snapchat hits a disappointing 166M daily users, growing only slightly faster

What about Amazon?

Alexa is the closest thing it has to Messaging. There are rumours that Amazon is working on a new messaging app called Anytime. According to Techcrunch, Anytime is:

“… a full-featured, standalone messaging app for smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart watches designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services like music and food ordering (and other shopping), and interact with businesses.”
Amazon Anytime
Amazon Anytime Feature ist

Other established players in the messaging landscape

Telegram (Russia, boasted 100 million monthly active users world wide in Feb 2016) can now send disappearing messages just like Snapchat, WeChat (762 million monthly active users in China in June 2016), Line (218 million monthly users in June 2016, two-thirds of whom are from Japan) and Kakaotalk (49 million active users worldwide as of March 2017). Also Viber (891 million registered users worldwide as of March 2017) Kik and Tango. The Asian messaging apps are years ahead in terms of functionality, and have cracked something that their Western counterparts have not: Monetisation.

Source: Line and WeChat Strike Advertising Gold — WSJ, June 22 2016

Who’s winning in Messaging?

Quartz looked at the popularity of messaging apps by country, and it’s clear win for Facebook:

Source: Facebook’s global dominance of messaging, in two maps
What does a 2 billion reach look like

Facebook just announced last week that it will start monetising Messenger with ads. Jarrod Dicker from Washington Post thinks that this is kind of the end of websites (I say, not so quickly…). In addition Facebook is

Source: eMarketer, Line, Tencent, pymnts.com; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Facebook is rumoured to also be building a standalone app to compete with Houseparty, a standalone group video chat app that’s popular amongst millennials. Houseparty is by the team behind the Meerkat app, which was blocked from Twitter following the acquisition of Periscope.

In his excellent post on the Messaging Landscape from Feb 2016, Ben Eidelson, said:

“Messaging is going to bring this human touch back to person-to-business dealings online and give businesses a chance to provide assistance to their customers in a way that has never been better for customers”.

This implies a huge business opportunity for the companies that will able to adapt from web/mobile UI to conversational/chat UI, ideally powered by AI.

Hope you enjoyed my first 30 day challenge post. Subscribe here for the next ones.

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