whats-up-very

It’s time for yet another post in my series on Private Messaging. If you missed the previous one, Does the Future of Social Media Involve Becoming More Private, you can check it out here.

I would like to spend some time talking about messaging platforms and what makes them a “symbol” for the change we are seeing to more private means of communicating via social media. To me, three platforms seem to dominate this space radically: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Wechat. Together they are by far the world’s most used messaging platforms, with over one billion people using them regularly! I believe that if we keep an eye on what these platforms are doing, this will give us an indication as to where we are headed in terms of private messaging and social media.

The first thing to note is that as of now, these platforms are completely free, with no subscription fees and no third-party ads. This is great from a private user perspective, but the question is how long will this last? And how will these popular messaging platforms manage to generate revenue in the future? In a statement put out earlier this year, WhatsApp said:

“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”

The use of messaging platforms has extended far beyond plain text messages and the sharing of gifs. When I was at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong earlier this year, my eyes were opened to the Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, which is used by more than 800 million people. It is technically very advanced. Users can do everything from pay bills to buy movie tickets to order taxies all within the app itself.

Unfortunately these functions are only available in China at this time. But looking at the statement from WhatsApp above, the brains behind this are probably working really hard to roll similar features out soon, so they can keep up with the competition. On the other hand, the more functions that are added, and the more data-intensive inquiries we see, more moderation and scalability will be needed.

Some of the answers to these features, could be found within third-party chat bots and conversational interfaces. And this area has just started to move into the commercial world, with Facebook investing heavily and new bots being rolled out everyday. Recently Duolingo rolled out a chat bot to help you even further when it comes to learn a new language. Try it out!

You may be wondering what chat bots and conversational interfaces have to do with you? Well, consider these trends, driven by messaging platforms, that are becoming more present each and every day:

  1. Your phone number is becoming obsolete. SMS and text messaging came about when flip phones were introduced. Now that we carry highly advanced smartphones in our pockets, we can do so much more than text. Just as flip phones are disappearing, so are old ways of communicating. Video and voice calls can be made through messaging apps, and you can send all types of content (gifs, jpegs, pdfs, voice memos, etc.) to others without even needing to know their phone numbers!
  2. Messaging platforms allow us one place to do everything. No longer will you need to download four or five different apps, when you can keep everything organized in one place. In addition, messaging platforms allow for threaded, private communication between interested parties–no need to switch to text messaging or phone calls or email. This trend may be a huge challenge for the app development business, because apps may not even be needed in the future.
  3. I believe that when we communicate with bots, our language changes, as well as our skill sets. Bots don’t understand small talk, but rather communicate well with commands. Our language will probably evolve into a bot-lingo in order to ensure efficiency.

As messaging platforms become more prevalent in our lives, it looks as if we will all be spending more time messaging with bots in the near future. And as it looks now, it will be fun. Here are more bots you can try out, but keep in mind, they’re not perfect yet and there’s still a lot to learn when it comes to conversational interfaces.