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Messaging Has Some Way To Go Before It Replaces Email and SMS

Facebook Messenger has over 200m users, Wechat has over 400m, WhatsApp has over half a billion and Skype nearly a billion. With all the coverage given to these messaging services, plus the dozens more that arrive every month, it's easy to believe the hype that email is dead and SMS has been replaced.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem with each of those messaging services is that they can't talk to each other. Or more accurately, they could but they won't. Which means before you can start messaging someone, you need to know what network they're uisng and be on it yourself. Unless you have a small, or very pliable group of friends you're going to end up installing multiple messaging apps to keep in contact with them all.

In contrast SMS and email are both ubiquitous and completely cross compatible. To SMS another user you need only know their phone number. To send someone an email you just need their email address. This lowest common denominator model may have some drawbacks, but it beats the proprietary, walled gardens being deployed by these newer services.

The promise of interoperability has been dangled in front of messaging users since the days when services like Yahoo, MSN, ICQ and IRC were the big players. That nobody has managed to find a common standard to allow services to cross talk is an indictment of the 'profit before all' model which pervades the modern app based development society.

Unlikely as it seems, the only possible resolution to this problem would be the adoption of a standard by Google, Microsoft and Apple to allow Hangouts, Skype and iChat users to talk to each other and offer gateway access to any other service that is prepared to play by the rules. Failing that we'll continue to see Messaging environment which does a poor job of meeting users needs.


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