Messaging As The New Platform

by Beerud Sheth, Founder, Webaroo    Dec 30, 2015


Every decade or so comes a major tech tsunami transforming our computing experience, disrupting old businesses and creating massive new opportunities – it was the PC in the mid-80s; the Web in the mid-90s, and finally, the Smartphone in the mid-00s. Each was a major platform that caused a giant shift. Prepare yourself for the next wave, predictably on schedule in the mid-10s: Messaging as the new platform!

At each transition point, the old platform maxes out on its capabilities while new technologies and user preferences combine to create new experiences that are better, faster and cheaper. In the mid-80s, PCs made computers personal and more affordable – compared with mainframes and workstations. However, the cost of developing and deploying desktop software became ultimately too high. In the mid-90s, came the browser, which separated interface from functionality, which made it easier for developers to build and maintain sites delivering better customer experiences faster and cheaper. However, the web experience still was limited to the monitor in offices and homes. In the mid-00s, the smartphone changed that by bringing the computing experience to the small screen – anytime, anywhere.

Today we’ve reached the limits of the capabilities of smartphone operating systems. With mobile devices, the original intent was that operating systems (iOS, Android etc) would be the platform and millions of apps would support individual use cases. While developers have indeed built millions of apps, the average person uses just a handful every day. The small screen makes it hard to discover, download, use and switch across a large number of apps. The critical challenge now is: how do users engage with a rapidly increasing number of services on the small mobile device?

The clue to the answer is right there in the #1 used app – the messaging app. The user’s fascination with messaging apps combined with new advances in messaging technology is leading to the creation of a brand new platform: a messaging-based platform.

If users already spend so much time within the messaging app, wouldn’t it be great if other services were delivered right inside the messaging app? No more switching across apps, no more disparate interfaces. In many cases, users won’t even have to initiate the service – the service will notify the user when an action is required.

Automated services can be delivered by messaging bots that talk to you like a human would. Whether you wish to communicate with a person, website or gadget, you could interact simply by sending and receiving messages. The message becomes the interface and the bot becomes the app.

It’s already happening, and on a bigger scale than most people realize. The furthest along the path is Wechat, the Chinese messaging app, and Line, the Japanese messaging app, followed by Facebook Messenger and others. The Wechat and Line messaging apps, nay platforms, enable users to shop, order pizza, book a taxi, do banking, send payments, and just recently, even stock trading. Facebook and even Snapchat are opening up their platforms too. Users have adopted these trends in a big way. Wechat did over $100 million in e-commerce sales on Singles Day (China’s biggest shopping day), books over 20 million taxi rides a month and over $1 billion in 2014 revenues through gaming.

These trends are playing out on the enterprise side as well. Hipchat enables bug tracking and task management along with messaging. Slack integrations enable imported events from numerous third party systems. Telegram has launched APIs for creating messaging bots. Our app, Teamchat, which pioneered “smart” messages and messaging bots, is used for sales tracking, lead management, approval workflows, retail operations, attendance monitoring, social commerce and much more. 

Today, virtually all of ERP, CRM, HRMS and other enterprise processes can be enabled on messaging platforms. The backend systems may still remain the same, but the front-end user experience can be simplified and unified within the messaging app. 

We’re entering a phase of computing where our screens are getting smaller just as the breadth of experiences is getting wider. While we communicate with users and websites, we’re now starting to talk to our smart cars, smart homes, smart watches—the smart everything.  How could we possibly manage hundreds of apps on these tiny screens? Messaging is the most natural human interface.  It’s better, therefore, to aggregate these services into one smart messaging app where you receive alerts and notifications when it matters, and can communicate with (or control) all your experiences in one place. If messages get piled up, your PA/bot will filter them, or perhaps act autonomously, on your behalf. Like a CEO manages a large organization, messaging platforms and bots will help us be better chief executives of our diverse computing experiences.

So whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor, developer, enterprise or consumer, fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourself for the next paradigm shift as the message becomes the interface, the bot becomes the app and messaging becomes the platform.

(Beerud Sheth is the founder of Webaroo, which launched the smart messaging app and platform Teamchat.)