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World | Nov 22, 2020

Tech Notes|Bip, Signal and the next stop for instant messaging?

/ Our Today

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Paul-Andre Walker

The idea behind instant messaging was to improve communication. Today, WhatsApp messenger is the leader in this field – despite competition from every social media platform – offering chats, voice over IP calling, and even video calling.

However, as with all things, the intention and the outcome fall far from each other.

At the moment, there is the problem of overindulgence. The many different contacts in your phone sending messages all the time makes it hard to respond in real time. WhatsApp has become almost like electronic mail and not instant at all.

First WhatsApp messenger invaded the world of text messaging, taking away vital earning from telecommunication companies.

Text messaging (Short Messaging Service or SMS) was a little clunky and while the technology was similar, the world of media messaging and emojis made a massive difference, with texting clumsily following along with the idea of MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service).

So yes, your smart phone could do all the things it now does with the advent of WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, and Instagram messaging, but for some reason, phone companies, kept losing market share to instant messaging platforms.

Voice over IP calls made things even worse for phone companies and then add video calling into the mix and telecommunications giants all over the world are feeling it.

Now that instant messaging apps have taken over, two things have happened.

On one hand, instant messages aren’t so ‘instant’ anymore. Every instance of communication, whether personal or business, has begun to come through your favoured instant messaging platform, usually WhatsApp.

What this means is there are quite a number of your WhatsApp messages that get lost.

This is especially so if you are a part of a few WhatsApp groups. The sheer number of messages per day makes it almost impossible to keep up with what’s happening in your WhatsApp.

Ok, so instant messaging is a little more like email these days. Delivery is instant but communication, not so much.

On the other hand, with so much competition to control the instant messaging game, those that combine messaging platforms may become the kings of the hill.

Facebook messenger offers the combination between SMS messages and its own messaging services, while others have combined the potential of SMS and MMS in powerful apps that make for great ways for advertisers to reach the mobile market, even if a little annoying for us the user.

The most popular of these, in Jamaica anyway, is BIP.

Screen grab from BIP’s menu tap in the Google Playstore. (Photo: play.google.com)

Outside of BIP, messaging platforms like Signal and such are taking a slice out of the instant messenger pie.

BIP, with 10 million+ downloads, is doing well for itself but it pales in comparison to the 1 billion plus downloads of Messenger, formerly Facebook Messenger, or Messenger Go for Social Media, Messages, Feed, which has 50 million, or even Hangouts (by Google), which also has more than a billion downloads.

The success of WhatsApp may have been a curse as well. With all the users on the platform, people now need a differentiator. They want their important messages to stand out. That might not happen with the bountiful nature of your message list in WhatsApp, but you will notice a different notification from another app.

But there is one advantage WhatsApp still maintains and it may be enough to keep it ahead of all its competition and allow it to continue to eat into the voice calling and text messaging services of telecommunications companies world over.

Facebook’s Messenger interface on the IOS platform. (Photo: TheNextWeb)

There are no ads.

Advertising is the latest battleground online and many advertisers, through the telecommunications companies, reach out to potential buyers through messaging apps.

They avoid the clutter of the many messages you go through on WhatsApp and provide that unique notification you get on your phone.

The result is usually annoyance but every now and then you’ll come across an ad that’s useful. And that’s because it isn’t tied up with the fray of the many messages you get on WhatsApp. 

WhatsApp is also merging messaging services with other kinds of services as well.

While Facebook, Signal, and BIP have taken a piece of the messaging market, WhatsApp has gone ahead and taken some of the social media market with its status addition.

Instant messaging + social media = Whatsapp statuses. (Photo: Tech Tiffin)

Status messages have become increasingly popular and offer another avenue for people to post as they would on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok.

Interestingly, all those avenues coming under one umbrella is really convenient and suggests that this is the next place for instant messaging to go.

One app that controls all your social media activity and your messaging needs. A mash up of WhatsApp and Hootsuite if you will.

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