In the news today is a story about Facebook planning or already on the way to creating a single underlying service, that integrates the Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram message services that so many of us use.
It will mean that a Messenger user will be able to send messages to an Insta user or Whatsapp user, of whom they don’t have other personal or contact details.
This integration, whilst retaining the apps of each separate branded platform, may be the source of some friction during 2018, when the Instagram founders, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom unexpectedly left Facebook. They were followed by the Whatsapp founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, all for largely unspecified reason, like “playing more Frisbee”.
There will be other advantages for users, as well as the reasons I give below, and one will be the addition of end to end encryption of messages as standard. This will mean neither Facebook itself, nor others, can read what is being sent. Some feel the integration will be a further reason to move away from these services, as they doubt the altruism of Facebook in all of this. Whatsapp users don’t give away too much of their personal data to use that messaging service. However, Facebook users have given an ongoing dump of their personal data to the company in exchange for the service for many years. I think there will be a long debate on what people are willing to share across the platforms. One thing is for sure, billions of people will be more wary of what they share with the data giants.
There is one another basic motivation. Whatsapp has about 1.5 billion active users each month, yet it generates very little revenue for Facebook. Instagram has 1 billion monthly users, this business has very valuable advertising revenue. There must be an undisclosed masterplan behind this move, which must raise revenues.
Here are two possible [speculative] reasons this might all be going on:
Firstly, business would like to message people using these systems. Messenger presently allows automation of some interactions of business with their customers. Invoices and receipts can be sent this way, and some organisations have chatbots working successfully already.
Here is an example from my personal phone – an airport car park chatbot.
It’s not too hard to see that message could be sent by email, or to Whatsapp, but the improvement is the interaction with the chatbot – ask it for directions, or the confirmation, and the result is instant. Humans might chat and smile, but the chatbot simply responds with the answer you want, instantly.
This sort of interaction will allow companies to compete to provide super efficient customer services we cannot yet imagine. Of course the reach can therefore be worldwide, and would not bar the present users of the other services.
Whatsapp already has a platform to allow for customer services direct, BBC news uses Whatsapp for news images and remote crowd sourced news gathering, the uses of these services is gathering momentum daily.
Secondly, email is failing for personal communications. Randomised spam emails are a nuisance, as well as needing to be filtered daily. People use email for business use, but so much personal comms traffic is now via the various messaging apps, on our smartphones.
Putting it very simply, people read these massages when their phones buzzes or vibrates, somehow emails are easier to ignore, or delete later. This is a further factor which will drive businesses to communicate and provide services in this way.
On the other hand, we can expect spammers will find a way through these systems, but no doubt there will be privacy settings in place, and instant long term blocking. Apparently, the email marketing industry is already turning over more than $100 billion.
Any company, individual or spammer can guess, buy or steal your email address, then send you those unsolicited messages. But if these three services I have described above are integrated, the ecosystem created, with verified contacts, the resulting service could take over from email, possibly consigning email to the dustbin of technology history.
The rules must be that users would opt in to receiving messages from business, so we would only receive messages from the people and business that we know, interact with, and possibly have an account with already.
Life without spam email? You never know. . .