It must be hard working at Facebook, you finally got to a point in your career that you are working at one of the biggest hip new names in technology. However every time you and your colleges invent something new and ‘awsome’ it is hated on by everybody and you seem to be the cause of frustration all around you. In the beginning I believed this was a phase of Facebook, but with the recent hated Facebook-film and further alteration of main features like search and messages to an almost unworkable mess. It can at least be said that Facebook is on more than just an unlucky streak.
Facebook has given us a perfect example of totally misunderstanding the market in combination with an amazing piece of mismanagement. Their latest move, and probably/hopefully masterpiece in mismanagement, has been to buy Whatsapp for a mind boggling 15 billion Dollars. Not that the price is anywhere close to a real number since any acquisition above the 100 Million bar is hard to comprehend, let alone if such a deal is in almost only intangible goods such as concepts, users, code and goodwill.
This being said, it is understandable Facebook would make such a move. Facebook, as being the first true social network, has by now proven to be more interested in the way we communicate and having multiple assets to serve this need. This is the same reason why Facebook bought Istagram and this is why they bought Whatsapp. Istagram introduced a way of communicate via pictures in a mobile app whereas Whatsapp changed the way we communicated mobile with each other, one-on-on as well as ongoing groups of friends, colleges chatting away.
The way Facebook wants to be leading in the evolution of human communication is both impressive as it is scary. For this exact same reason this latest acquisition could end up biting Facebook in the ass. Whatsapp is aimed to be private talking along people and friends, the model was kept believable by saying you needed to pay a dollar or some cent to use it, but until now the app never got blocked since they were still growing the market. Now that Facebook has joined the table a noticeable amount of people has started looking and thinking about alternatives. The reason for this is that Facebook tends to see consumer data as their way to make money and therefore people are getting worried about the privacy that Whatsapp will offer to them.
Alternatives for Watsapp
Since that notorious Thursday a people became aware and started looking for alternative of Whatsapp. There are old timers like BBM, Skype, Viber and eBuddy getting a new review, as well as a bunch of Asian favorites like WeChat, Line and Kakao. But also relatively new players such as Telegraph, Kik and Hike are passing the review, with parties as heml.is and kim.com still need to make it to the market with their app. All in all there is a lot to chose so lets make a list with some of the most prominent rivals and why others won’t be that interesting in the instant messaging space.
This messenger is highly promoted by Dutch mass media and seems to have the potential to become one of the biggest rivals. This is mainly due to some unique features that most of the competition out there is lacking. The most prominent of this is that the app has the, self acclaimed, best encryption and it even offers an option to have end-to-end encrypted sessions. Furthermore it is an ‘partly’ opensource project, this gives the option to develop extra apps with unique futures or on not yet supported platforms. You can compare this is basics with projects like Wikipedia and WordPress, however since not much is know about the company at the moment only time will tell if this is truly the case. This being said Telegram Messenger is European based and is backed financially by Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s largest social network VK (Vkontakte).
In a first look in the app it is striking to see that it is a 99% copy of Whatsapp, the only real difference to see is that the details are blue instead of green in this app. Even the emoticons and background are ‘unfortunately’ identical as Whatsapp. This being said it is quick and logical in use as would be expected from such an app. There is no need for additional accounts and new contacts are added automatically.
These known messengers are backed, bundled and promoted by two of the biggest tech companies in the world, respectively Microsoft and Google. These two giants both have messenger clients that offer the extra mile and are even including video chat and group (video) chat. In basics there is nothing wrong with offering extra capabilities, however if it is not needed to call why would you want to have it in that app. This being said you can place a skeptical note that both these solutions are of American decent making privacy part of the concern. Furthermore both Microsoft and Google are, just as Facebook, companies that already have a lot of power over our information and it seems unwise to give them even more of that in their control.
Both services seem lacking in the way their clients handle instant text messaging compared to Whatsapp. There seems to be lag and due and their multiple device link seems to cause messages to be deliver duplicates or showing already read messages as unread. These are however just small hiccups are sure to change, since both these companies are highly capable of bringing instant messaging to the next level. Also it can be said both companies are full aware of the potential in these technologies, since Microsoft has been working on it since MSN and has been pushing their Skype product on more and more devices. On the other hand Google keeps evolving their talk feature further and further, plus Google allegedly also try to buy Whatsapp. Furthermore it is important to keep in mind that both companies have the benefit of big install bases on their own hardware products were they can push their messaging product.
There is always a need to look east, especially in the field of technology. Before most of our software was coming from America, but I believe in the near future we will see this shift more and more to the east. This is going to be especially true for the field of mobile apps, since one of the big advantages companies from the Asian market have is that penetration of mobile phones to computers has always been high, much higher than in the West. Therefore companies have been thinking mobile first for a lot longer and this has resulted in quite a mature market of mobile instant messengers. Things that come to mind with a mobile first strategy is the extra option to add contact in Wechat and Kakao by shaking your phone together and the app will find people nearby doing the same. Another development to see is that these platforms all support emoticons you can buy for a few cents to spice up your conversation.
In Asia there are a number of clients that have a big following. The most prominent three are Line from Japan, the Chinese Wechat and KakaoTalk from Korea. All these clients have a respectable market share in their home markets, but are yet to lift off in the western world. The main reason for this is that there were not aimed towards the west where Whatsapp is already dominant, but these strategies might start to become more global due to the current developments.
Of the three apps Wechat seems the most polished and easy to set up. It has a beautiful smooth design and works very intuitive, not only the Asian Messengers but as an messenger in general. The complete opposite can be said about Kakao this app suffers under an overwhelming cuteness. Also the setup and overall working of the app feels clunky. The last on the list was the Japanese Line messenger, unfortunately this app wouldn’t open on my phone and kept crashing every time I try to open it. It’s unfortunate, but the app does have potential. All in all these are three players to keep in mind
Viber was an independent party founded in Israel that was the main competitor of Skype and a mobile first solution. They make name mainly by making it possible to make free phone calls via smartphones. Therefore the app offers more functionality than most its messaging rivals, however it is to question people are looking for this extra functionality. In other news Viber was bought by Japanese E-commerce company e-commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba. Becoming part an e-commerce site and having acclaimed links to the Israeli army, are both warning signs to potential privacy infringements.
This all being said the app looks solid and has a fresh interface. The way to chat is convenient and quick. Furthermore the apps chat function offers a nice extra functionality to draw something quickly. However the amount of emoticons offered is rather scanty, this is partly made up by the addition of bigger stock images that can be extended free of charge or by paying a small price. All in all this app will break or fall by the need to have an app that can call for free.
BBM, fully called Black Berry Messenger, is a good golden oldie and has a potential chance to return make a return to power. RIM has had a disastrous year, if not years, and when it announced to go multi-platform with BBM back in the summer of 2013, nobody seemed to care. It officially launched in September 2013 and until now it has been downloaded 10.000.000+ so it can be said that it still needs to warm up. However keep in mind that Blackberry is compared to most (if not all) other parties out there an respected source for keeping data private and protected. RIM is an Canadian company and has always been focused on business stable solutions. Furthermore there is still, if not small, a group of people actively using Blackberries out there. To be the next messenger could be the savior of RIM as a whole.
This app is a bit inconvenient. It needs, since I never have been a Blackberry user, to create a Blackberry ID. After the set-up I noticed my list stayed empty, which is strange because I definitely still have a few Blackberry users in my contact list and even more old blackberry users. This is due to the fact that BMM only works if an initial handshake is given between the two parties. This is done with a code the users need to exchange to set up the service. All in all the BMM app feels not ready to become the next big messenger, but this could be solved in the near future. As a key benefit BBM has a trustworthy Canadian company behind it, a company well known for its security, stability and professionalism, all things quite unique in the messenger field.
In my opinion the Telegram messenger has the most potential to become a serious player, at least for the Dutch market. Since the time I’ve started to write this article most people I’ve seen joining was on Telegram. It seems this is not only happening at my friends because yesterday Telegram announced to have 1,8 million users in one day. Furthermore Telegram is an opensource project focusing of speed, privacy and security, three of the most important futures needed for an messaging app.
This being said most of these apps will see a tremendous rise in users as well as Whatsapp will stay going strong. The only question is will it be with you and me. Are you comfortable having one party like Facebook having all your information and will an alternative messenger even work if not all join so massively as what happened on Whatsapp. For me personal it seems Whatsapp will stay in use, but for the first time I will start actively start using alternatives for my messaging and lets see in two months time what will be most convenient.
A final note needs to be made that the security for each of these apps needs to be explained further and in more detail. At this moment it is unclear what is possible and what is not. In example the good aspiration of Telegram are to have fully encrypted sessions , however the standard message option is only encrypted basically. So does that mean these messages can be viewed, monitored and used by the team government or potential e-commerce users? Since the whole NSA scandal of last year there is a need for more transparency and a solution that offers privacy first.
Just remember that for now we do not understand the possibilities of these big data and how it could be used, but I would prefer to not store all in one place (if it already needs to be stored at all). Especially if it is an American company who makes a living of selling consumer insight and advertisements, like Facebook. However I think in the near future one of these solutions will give us just that, that could be Telegram, but for now we just have to wait and see.