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Thursday, 13 September 2012

The growth of social messaging platforms

If you are a smartphone user, you have probably observed a trend that the proportion of SMS sent has reduced against the amount of social messaging platforms that you do (Google Chat,  Facebook, WhatsApp etc.). This is borne out by the success of cross platform messaging applications like Nimbuzz, especially in the growing Asian smartphone market. Nimbuzz and Facebook also benefit from their accessibility on non-smartphone platforms like Symbian, whose users aspire to the same benefits as smartphone users, but have far fewer applications at their disposal. Thanks to BBM, BlackBerry users have enjoyed this benefit for longer, but even they need a cross-platform app like WhatsApp to connect to the growing base of smartphone users.

The success of these platforms would indicate a growing data hunger which will replace SMS in the years to come. In fact, cross platform social messaging apps are extremely likely to do well in India now. Data on both 2G and 3G has become cheaper, and SMS as a VAS service has not, so people will embrace the benefit of cheap/ almost zero cost communication. The only real challenge is monetisation of these platforms. WhatsApp is established  and can afford to charge 99 cents a year after the first free year of usage without losing too many users. Nimbuzz can leverage their huge user base to monetise through advertising. Facebook is yet to crack the mobile advertising space which is costing them hugely. It would be interesting if Twitter can adapt  itself better to the mobile space in India. It lends itself fantastically to breaking news updates and live local news on traffic, public transport strikes, rain-related waterlogging etc. It's a pity that it has not taken off in a bigger way in India. That analysis will be the subject of a separate post!