So Social: Rise of messaging apps

  • TECH
  • Monday, 18 Jan 2016

Play it by ear: Pick the messaging app that you are most comfortable with but don’t just stick to one. — 123RF

With so many apps for messaging, it’s getting harder than ever to pick the right one.

As I was describing what I think will be the hottest social media trends of 2016, messaging apps were high on the list.

So there’s no better time to talk about why that should ­matter to you.

Unlike sharing tips about how to use a specific network or app, messaging is still very much unorganised.

You might use Messenger or WhatsApp, both from Facebook, or another service such as Snapchat or Google Hangouts. Or maybe Skype or Instagram Direct or iMessage or WeChat. Or Glide or Yahoo LiveText or Kik or the hot new service called Peach.

Why so many apps? Same ­reason why we all use so many different social networking apps. We tend to find a place we like and feel comfortable in, and let’s face it – we’re a society that doesn’t embrace change.

Total control

If you want a taste of what the future could hold if we were to let it, WeChat is used by more than 650 million users in China for basically everything.

Yeah, you can chat with friends but people use it to bank and control appliances in their home and buy clothes and order food. The list goes on and on.

Imagine the things you could do if instead of having folders of hundreds of apps, you could do it all within one? Mark Zuckerberg has long talked about a day when people would just need Facebook as opposed to the rest of the Internet, so China is moving in the right direction with WeChat.

But there are glimpses of the future in Facebook’s Messenger, where in selected countries you can now send cash to friends and order an Uber, but even with its 800 million users I only talk to three people regularly there.

So what’s wrong with traditional texting – or SMS – you ask? Mostly everything.

It’s slow and still limited to 160 characters before messages are truncated or broken into ­separate texts. SMS is the 8-track tape of the high-quality streaming music era.

But the challenge remains. How do you convince people who have been texting for years to switch from traditional SMS to a messaging app? Once you do, you probably won’t go back.

And you can’t afford not to be aware of the alternatives and familiar with the choices.

No winner

If this keeps up, in 20, 30 or 40 years we’ll all be communicating on some platform that identifies us by username – and the phone number will go into the history books as another piece of the past.

Just like we all thought we’d never give up VHS tapes or rotary dial phones, change is inevitable, and that holds especially true in our digital world.

My best advice right now is to communicate with people where they are and where you feel comfortable.

Don’t feel pressured to make changes and only stick with one platform or app because you’ll just limit yourself and miss out. But realise that the future of Internet communication and social media is likely going to be through this kind of app.

It’s only a matter of time before some company comes up with the magic formula that starts a mass exodus to a new app.

And when we hit that sweet spot where a certain app is worth more of your time and effort, I’ll dedicate a full article to get you communicating and messaging like a pro. – Tribune News Service

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