Without a doubt, messaging is the most popular activity on mobile devices. More than voice calling. More than gaming. More than weather. Messaging apps are used more often and for longer periods than any existing segment of apps. The messaging user experience is simple and intuitive and is well suited to the small mobile screens.
Messaging apps enable you to do more than mere messaging: You can send smiley emojis, stickers, greeting cards (Whatsapp); do live audio and video (Viber, Tango); expire photos (Snapchat and Wickr); geo-fence conversations (YikYak); hide identity (Whisper); and so on. What’s more, you can play games (Kakao); book taxis (GetTaxi); buy products and send payments (Wechat, FB Messenger); integrate enterprise apps (Slack); and even control your refrigerator (Line).
These examples point to the major new emerging trend: Messaging is the new Platform.
Messaging is the platform on which possibly the largest number of new apps and services are being built. Why? Messaging has been found to be a simple and powerful way to connect people, web services, enterprise workflows and IOT devices in interesting and heretofore unknown ways.
Imagine messages as packets of data moving seamlessly between these entities, enabling entirely new communications, collaborations, workflows and transactions. Some messages are for humans while others are meant for machines. And with this approach, the user interface for virtually any web service, enterprise workflow or IOT device becomes as simple as, you guessed it, a messaging app. Using advanced services is now as simplistic as chatting with a friend. You may not even be able to tell whether it’s a human or a machine on the other end – it shouldn’t matter!
Messaging is clearly the quickest way to connect people. It’s also a great way to connect web services and enterprise workflows. Doing so simplifies transactions and speeds up workflows. Booking taxis and buying products requires simply exchanging messages with the transaction systems. Users can input data into enterprise systems by replying to simple messages. The system can then send alerts, approval requests, summary reports and mini dashboards based on roles and permissions. This dramatically simplifies the user interface of typically complex enterprise systems driving greater adoption and usage. So now every system becomes a “friend” and every interaction becomes a “message”.
Messaging is also the best way to connect IOT devices. IOT devices have a wide range of capabilities and user interfaces. When connected to a messaging app, these devices become much easier to communicate with. Each event in the device can trigger a message for users. Users can control devices by sending messages to the device(s). Again, the user interface becomes a lot easier and simpler. The device is the “friend” while the “message” is the interface.
When everyone and everything is connected to a common messaging system, the combinations become intriguing. Messages that originate from IOT devices can be routed through workflow systems that present a summary report to the user. Or users can initiate or approve a high-level command translated into a series of actions by an enterprise system controlling a network of IOT devices. Now, because they’re all integrated with a common messaging platform, distinct developers can independently build different components. Said combinations are easier to build, manage and operate with a common messaging system.
Messaging platforms, built on common standards, have a history of enabling massive innovation. In an earlier tech era, platforms using TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP etc. transformed both person-to-person and machine-to-machine messaging. Today’s ever-increasing mobile era needs a mobile-centric messaging platform, so that current and future services are user-friendly on a small-screen device.
And yet mobile messaging will have to be rethought before it can support all these requirements.
First, messages need to become more than plain-text objects. They will have to be smart and structured. “Smart” messages contain data, meta-data, layout and data-handlers. In other words, they need to contain information that determines how they will display themselves, and what happens when a user interacts with them (not unlike html web pages). Smart messages enable different systems or devices to generate new kinds of messages requiring custom actions that a messaging app need not know in advance.
Second, smart messages have got to solve the clutter problem. Connecting users, systems and devices leads to a combinatorial explosion of messages. Smart-messages, however, contain handlers that reduce clutter. They can thread responses (e.g. so all comments related to a topic are clubbed together); aggregate and summarise responses (e.g. so poll total is displayed, rather than individual votes); update themselves to show the latest message (e.g. latest status is displayed instead of many intermediate statuses), etc. Smart messages transform the flood of raw text into manageable, aggregated, self-updating streams of meaningful messages.
Third, the messaging system must offer rich APIs and adapters so that web sites, enterprise systems and IOT devices can instantly plug into the platform.
At our new platform, Teamchat, we’ve successfully built a messaging app with such vision. Teamchat includes smart messages (called “chatlets”, or chat applets) and those rich APIs. Our early customers have built an interesting variety of applications on top of the Teamchat messaging service.
Today, enterprises use Teamchat for sales tracking, service call management, customer visit tracking, attendance tracking, HR communication, reward-and-recognition, employee surveys, financial approvals, and more. In addition, NGOs, event managers, political parties and government agencies are using Teamchat for clutter-free communication in large groups. Still others are using Teamchat to connect such IOT devices as NFC, RFID, beacons, wifi-trackers, wearables, watches, and more.
As mobile, cloud and IOT services grow exponentially, the theme that will tie them all together in the simplest and easiest way, enabling infinite possibilities will be: Messaging is the new Platform!