WhatsApp, Facebook Messaging, Google Hangouts, Viber, BBM, and a handful of others. Those are the new messaging channels. They are instant messaging platforms. Yahoo Messenger is still there too, but seems to be on life support. Whatever the individual players are and regardless of their state, instant messaging is the buzz these days, and for good reasons too. They are much cheaper than SMS, and allow a conversation in real time.
Personally, I am pretty much settled about what channel I want to use regularly. For me, WhatsApp is my de facto instant messaging platform. BBM (BlackBerry messenger) is likely to be another favourite of mine. The question is, Why these two? Any common grounds?
Let me put it this way: I believe that any instant messaging service that requires the user to login manually is a waste of time. This is where both WhatsApp and BBM have an edge. Power on your smartphone and they are almost instantly connected so long as there is an active internet service. No usernames. No passwords. I call it plug-and-go. I love that convenience. They are like your phones themselves. Switch them on and you are ready to go. I am tired of having to remember multiple login details for a gazillion services, and I am definitely tired of having to login to this service or the other at every turn.
I hope that cross-platform BBM will not stray from that level of convenience of plug-and-go. It would be a shame if it does.
There are so many IM platforms, and none of them talk to the others. This is not like SMS. This is not like email. This is a big mess. Many users will juggle multiple IM channels. Conversations go missing sometimes, as you have to remember whether that business chat was done on WhatsApp, Hangouts or Facebook. Madness.
In the past, I have talked about how SMS can evolve into an instant messaging service. At the network end, it costs next to nothing to send an SMS. There is no reason why SMS cannot evolve into an IM service. I still believe that one day, the networks will wake up and do the right thing: SMS that runs over packet data and charged at the prevailing mobile internet rates. Presto! Every other IM service takes a dive down the hill.
Until that happens, however, welcome to the cacophony that is instant messaging. Until that happens, I pitch for WhatsApp, and perhaps BBM (if the cross-platform experiment is also implemented as plug-and-go). These two are the platforms that offer the convenience closest to what SMS provides today.