So, by the end of 2016, we will be ending support for WhatsApp Messenger on the following mobile platforms:
BlackBerry, including BlackBerry 10
Nokia Symbian S60
Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
Windows Phone 7.1
That is pretty interesting. I wonder how much this will impact already dropping BlackBerry user figures? BBM doesn’t seem to have quite as much traction as WhatsApp (not much does) and with WhatsApp support falling away for BlackBerry devices during the course of this year, I can see even more people switching away from BlackBerry devices.
I did a little digging online and, according to Wikipedia, BBM had about 190 million users in 2015. Earlier this month The Verge reported that WhatsApp had over a billion users. Facebook Messenger doesn’t seem to support BlackBerry directly either, except perhaps through a mobile Web interface?
Bottom line for BlackBerry users is that 2016 is the year to make a decision between a new device or an unsupported version of WhatsApp (if WhatsApp will continue to work?).
It’s a clever tactic that plays on our preference to deal with human beings rather than some or other impersonal brand. The more you relate to a brand the more comfortable you feel with it. It becomes a “someone” and not a “something”. As Alexander puts it:
Anyone you admire starts to feel available to you via social media, and the more they cultivate that impression of a relationship, the better you, as a consumer, will perform.
I think we’ll see much more of this going forward, especially as we start interacting more and more with smart systems like messaging services (I think we can expect Facebook Messenger to start “behaving” like this first) and our digital personal assistants as they become smarter (for example, Siri and Google Now).
I can see some people specifically wanting an obviously artificial experience in the near future as these personified brands and services become a little too personal, a little too realistic. I wonder if service providers will take steps to ensure that their interfaces look just artificial enough to make us more comfortable using them. Making a service or machine too human may be a little too freaky for us humans for a while still.
Last year I wondered if Twitter could become a strong contender for a primary messaging app but I doubt that could happen. Just look at user numbers for services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that Facebook announced recently:
Twitter becoming a popular chat/messaging option along with being an essential news and updates service has a certain appeal from the perspective of being able to simplify your choice of apps to do it all but with Twitter having only recently exceeded 300 million monthly active users in total, I think the winner remains Facebook with its massively popular private messaging options which never had Twitter’s 140-character limit.
It is starting to seems like everyone is using Slack for internal comms within teams. I have at least two clients using it and I know of a couple other small teams using it too.
(On a related note, the Slack referral program which gives you $100 in credit when you sign up expires at the end of November 2014 so click on this link if you want to take advantage of that)
I’m experimenting with how I can tie into my clients’ teams and use Slack to collaborate with them rather than our usual email+Skype+Hangouts channels. I also switched to a beta version of the desktop app which better supports multiple teams (the stable version allows you to switch between teams which also works), thanks to Richard Oakley.
I am not a huge fan of email but it works (most of the time). I do like the idea of using chat-style services for communications with clients. Email can become pretty painful when you just want to have short conversations in close to realtime. I also like the idea of not using email much for work comms too and Slack is a great service to use for that.
I had a discussion along these lines with Nathan Jeffery recently and the one thing that came up was whether it is productive to switch to more realtime comms with clients. We have become accustomed to pretty fast comms with email, calls and chat. Email still has a semblance of a lag because it is still asynchronous so you can manage expectations to a degree. If you switch to a realtime option like Slack, you risk creating an expectation that your responses will be realtime simply because the tech enables it. That means you spend all your time chatting and not enough time working. At least that is the risk. I’m not sure that shifting to something like Slack is the end of productivity. I think managing expectations goes beyond what the channel enables but it is worth thinking about.
One of the companies that moved over to Slack is Sandwich Video Inc. The story about their transition is documented in a Slack blog post which is a great read. It is, ironically, a series of emails between Slack’s co-founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, and Sandwich Video’s CEO, Adam Lisagor. Sandwich Video created an awesome video (as you would expect) explaining why they moved and beautifully animating their enthusiasm for the product. I had to share. Watch the video in HD. You may need to watch it more than once, it’s that much fun:
I’m curious how many people are using Slack. It is easy to look around your local bubble and think everyone is doing it and forget about the world outside that bubble.
The messaging space seems to be the antithesis of email. Where email works using common protocols and a variety of email applications that all support them, messaging apps rarely talk to each other and basically function in silos. The messaging space is a surprisingly tricky one to dominate but a few of the services are in the lead and I can’t help but wonder if they are about to be unsettled in the near future.
Skype announced an update to its Mac app that brings it closer to recent mobile app updates that seem to emphasise messaging more and I thought it would be interesting to find out what people use as their dominant messaging app/service. I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and received some answers I wasn’t expecting.
The trend seems to be that messaging is a mobile thing and the preferred messaging apps are either WhatsApp or iMessage. At least based on the responses I received on Twitter and Facebook. The responses I received on LinkedIn all included Skype as an option with others including Redphone and IBM Sametime. This is hardly a scientific survey but the differences are revealing.
I thought that, perhaps, Skype is so prevalent that as Skype improves the mobile experience it could become a compelling mobile messaging option with an established desktop presence. It could even become a dominant messaging and VOIP platform that could supplant other choices but that doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Instead, people opt for a more fragmented approach with a fairly clear distinction between the mobile and desktop options (unless you have to use Viber which has desktop and mobile apps).
I put together a rough comparison of the various messaging options in a Google Sheets document and when I look at the feedback I received from people who responded, it certainly isn’t the case that the most widely supported app wins. WhatsApp’s and iMessage’s dominance don’t seem to be affected by their limited support (either across mobile/desktop in WhatsApp’s case or Mac and iOS vs all other platforms in iMessage’s case). Mobile trumps desktop and becoming the industry leader requires a lot more than cross-platform support.
Perhaps, like Twitter, becoming the preferred messaging choice requires a simpler, frictionless experience and not the apparent UX overhead that comes with more complex, cross-platform alternatives?
That said, I wonder if the dark horse in this race isn’t, perhaps, Facebook Messenger? It has pretty capable mobile apps, is accessible in your browser and integrates with Skype. Bring along Facebook’s 1.5+ billion users and you have a pretty compelling choice largely because the people you would want to keep in touch with are a download away because they already use Facebook. Facebook’s aggressive push to persuade users to download the Facebook Messenger app makes a lot more sense because if you are already sharing your life with friends and family on Facebook and have the Facebook Messenger app installed on your device, why not just use that for your messaging requirements too? Skype then becomes just another road that leads to Facebook.
For now, though, the messaging space is pretty cluttered but consolidation has to happen at some point. The bigger players are going to want to start entrenching themselves even further and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of WhatsApp-Facebook Messenger integration down the line to bring all those WhatsApp users into the broader Facebook ecosystem to create a massive, more coherent and encompassing social experience.