With our new messaging API nearing its beta version, it’s a good time to reflect on how the messaging industry got to where it is today. So, let’s rewind a couple decades and take a quick journey through time.
The resilient SMS
The SMS (short message service) is 25 years old and is still the most widely used messaging platform in the world, although it is very limited by today’s contextual standards. To put it into perspective, here are some compelling stats.
- Reach 5 billion people with SMS, because that’s how many people have mobile phones –not just smartphones (WhatsApp claims 1.5 billion monthly active users.)
- 4 out of 5 Americans regularly use SMS.
- SMS has a 98% open rate, still.
- 350 billion SMS messages sent each month (2014.)
Remember that SMS became a communication method in the 1990s, when the super-slow 2G network became a standard and the internet was relatively expensive.
Internet-based messaging gained traction and desktop messaging apps like MSN Messenger, AIM and Yahoo! Messenger allowed people to send each other instant messages with no limit to the content (you could send a photo, though it would take quite some time to upload and then download.)
Later, MMS came along, allowing people to send multimedia (mostly pictures) through a mobile network. It was GSM’s answer to the camera phone and consumer demand to send multimedia from mobile phone to mobile phone.
Yet GSM’s difficult-to-adapt standards and technical limitations stifled mobile messaging innovation until mobile internet became pervasive.
3G and smartphones changed the game
3G network adoption took off around 2007, the same time the original iPhone hit the market. Faster mobile network speeds and smartphones with the capability of running more powerful applications created an opportunity for internet-based messaging over data networks, rather than older mobile network standards.
As mobile data prices raced to the bottom, “over-the-top” (OTT) messaging apps took text-based communication to a new level with tons of new features that were missing with SMS. Messaging apps slowly moved from the desktop to mobile phones.
In addition to pocket-sized mobile-computing machines, people gained an “always connected” mindset, giving messaging more ground to cover. In fact, the number one daily use of smartphones is texting, which could be SMS or an OTT app.
No wonder why some of the biggest messaging apps took off around this time:
- WhatsApp – 2009
- Viber – 2010
- WeChat – 2011
- Facebook Messenger – 2011
Great progress in messaging, but brands and businesses see a fractured messaging ecosystem, so they stick with SMS, as SMS messages are nearly guaranteed to reach customers. And the application-to-person (A2P) SMS market will likely surpass peer-to-peer (P2P) SMS soon for this reason.
Businesses are stuck in the 1990s, but not for too much longer
OTT applications are credited with the slow decline of P2P SMS, but A2P SMS continues to grow due to its ubiquity and abundance of use cases for businesses.
Businesses aren’t left out in the cold, though, and there’s a lot to look forward to. First Facebook Messenger, and then Viber, opened their platforms to business accounts. Messenger’s 1.5 billion monthly active users and Viber’s nearly 1 billion (with likely overlap,) give businesses an opportunity to communicate with people with rich media.
RCS (rich communication service,) also known as SMS v2.0, is the mobile network industry’s response to OTT platforms, and yet another messaging channel businesses can utilize.
So here we are, with multiple messaging channels
And more on the way, all claiming to be the best way for businesses to interact with customers. One can see how this can become complicated, as businesses will need to track who they sent what, on which messaging platform.
This is where omni-channel messaging helps. Messente has built the Omnichannel API to support all available OTT apps, plus SMS. Here’s where we are and how we support businesses in messaging:
- We’ll always do SMS and businesses need an SMS fallback, because OTT platforms don’t currently reach all the 5 billion people that SMS can.
- Viber is the first to open its API to messaging companies like Messente, and we fully support this platform.
- We help with business account registration with OTT platforms. Currently, Viber accounts are easier to get through Messente.
- RCS is in development and will be added next. If telecoms get it right, RCS has huge potential.
We expect that others (like WhatsApp) will eventually open their platforms to us, but they’re not there yet.
If you're using our omni-channel API (it's now available,) please give us your feedback!