The Keymakers of Technology

Kunal Patke
VP-Engineering | Teamchat
Sep 29, 2015

The Internet is like a humongous electronic treasure trove. Zillions of bits of information get added to the Internet every moment. However there is one problem. Just like there is a lot of jewelry in the trove, there is also a lot of garbage too. So what does one do to find something on the Internet? We use the search engines.

The evolution of Search Engines
Search engines weren’t as accurate as they are now. The early days of search engines would just have listings. Yahoo then came up with the directory and categorization concept, which was followed by the natural language search, pioneered by AltaVista and later revolutionized by Google. Whoever provided the most optimal way of showing relevant information in the shortest amount of time always ruled the roost on the internet. This was because search engines were the most natural way of finding something and then viewing it over the internet via the browser. The browser became the de-facto window into the internet.

Remember the movie Matrix Reloaded and the epic Keymaker scene where there were millions of doors and the Keymaker had the unique key to the only door to the Main Matrix Program. Similarly, there are so many doors to the internet and the search engines provide (or supposed to provide) with the correct key to enter and consume the information resident inside the internet. Google has been a master at providing the right key to the right door.

It is however also important to understand how the internet has evolved in terms of what information it stored and how it has led to variations in the consumption pattern of this information. In the early days, internet was just a mesh of websites providing textual information. So the search engine algorithms would need to match the text that the user entered with the text in the website, use a ranking algorithm and present it to the user.

Subsequently, massive computerization started to happen across the globe. This led to automation of several business processes into computer applications. However business applications were mostly offline and were consumed over offline workstations. Applications were used mostly for businesses and were usually client server based. This was the era of client-server computing with thick clients (c/c++/java applications) since browsers did not have the capability to support rich applications. The internet use was still restricted to searching for textual information. So the Keymakers (Google and Yahoos mainly) still continued to hold the keys to the internet for search of textual information.

Then html and javascript happened to the web world and it standardized and transformed the way applications could be developed for the web browser. Applications were transformed from rich client applications to thin client browser based applications. And then 2 important things happened: distributed computing and the telecommunications revolution.
The massive progress in networking and telecommunications meant that the office network in UK could easily connect to the office network in Australia. This, along with the VPN concept wiped out the boundaries between the LAN siloes across offices in diverse geographic locations.
The office LANs now got connected to the internet and boundary between siloes of business applications and the internet no longer existed. From a convenience point of view, this also meant one could do her office work right from the comfort of her home. More laziness; More convenience. This also gave rise to a very important concept. The target audience for an application now changed from a pure business user to “a consumer”. Applications were no longer restricted to the business domain(B2B). This was the advent of the B2C or business to consumer applications.
The boundary between the home and the office began to blur. Through the same browser window, one could consume an enterprise application to run a business process or go to a shopping site to buy a washing machine for his home. As more and more non-business users started consuming apps on the internet, this led to the percolation of consumer apps. Consumer apps are always invariably directed towards individuals as opposed to enterprise apps which cater to large organizations with many different processes. So the Internet Keymakers now morphed from being keymakers not just for textual information, but also applications (both business and consumer) which would perform some task for you.

The rise of smartphones and app stores
And then mobile smartphones came in to picture and it turned everything around on its head. With the typical touch interface of smartphone the concept of UI/UX was radically altered. The browser based UI was not geared to tackle this. Applications needed to be simple to use without the need for a user manual and amenable to the touch based interface. Applications again started moving from browser based apps to rich native apps. People felt the need to consume stuff on the internet via several apps which performed different consumer and enterprise tasks for them. So the entry to the world of internet was via these apps. This now led to hordes of apps being developed and downloaded for consumption. Obviously, there was a need for a better app discovery mechanism and hence the keymakers had to evolve. Entered Apple – the new Keymaker with its app store . Google realized that this transformation was happening and created a store of its own whereas Yahoo fell back in the race.

The app stores provided an efficient discovery mechanism to the user and she could download an app of her choice . So far so good. But soon there was a problem of plenty. Both android playstore and apple App store now have more than million apps each (As Per there are about 1.6 million apps on Android playstore and 1.5 million apps on Apple Appstore). The market for apps is already extremely crowded . Acquiring customers has become difficult and retaining customers even more challenging. As per Flurry insights the average retention rate during the first month is around 36% for a typical app and around 68% for a messaging app. By the 12th month the retention rate for a typical app drops down to an abysmal 11% while for the messaging app it remains at 62%. All app developers are beginning to realize this and are trying to provide messaging functionality inside their app. But this would be like putting the cart before the horse.

What if one could do socializing, chatting, messaging, shopping, banking, consume any business app, all from one single interface with a ubiquitous UI without having to painfully “discover and install” an app. Can there be a single platform which achieves all this and has the potential to become the new Keymaker ? Sounds like science fiction? Not really.

Messaging apps – the new Keymaker
As more and more people spend more and more time using messaging apps, especially the social messaging ones, Facebook and WeChat are trying to change the game, albeit in their own way. Both are providing a platform for integrating business apps into the social messaging app. Facebook is trying to eradicate the app discovery problem by enabling app installs and launch (only for mobile apps confirming to Facebook business API interface) from within the FB app itself. WeChat has adopted a different approach of tightly integrating the business apps inside its own app. Messaging is the new Platform.


But this is only half the problem solved. There are still many questions unanswered-

  • Can a messaging app not only be a platform at the backend, but also provide a common way of displaying the information to the user?
  • Can a “message be smart enough” to magically become any of the following-
    • A simple text message
      A picture
      A video
      An aggregated sales figure for the organization.
      A programming task to be completed
      A chart to be displayed
      A trouble ticket in the critical state
  • Can a message be smart enough for it to be almost anything that the user wants it to be?
  • Can a “Message be the new UI”?
  • Does this concept have the ability to displace the incumbent Keymakers (Apple, Google et. al.)?

Teamchat, with its patent pending “smart messaging technology” intends to do answer these questions. See here to know how.

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