This week, we have another solo podcasts that discusses messaging in detail. I'm calling these types of episodes, the Solo Series, because I can't think of a better name. We're going to alternate in the feed - interview then solo, etc. Here are the notes on this episode.
Solo Series with my thoughts on Messaging, terms and best practices. On the last episode we talked about Messaging as a channel and compared messaging to other communication channels like email and phone calls. All of this is from the aspect of an organization looking at Messaging channels. We’re not talking about consumers using these channels. One this episode we are going to pull it all apart, and talk about all of the different options within Messaging.
Let’s start with the first Messaging Channel, SMS. You should all know that SMS is a text message on a phone. I’m not going to go into the full history, but basically SMS was invented 25 years ago in 1992. It was created as a backchannel so that the cell phone could talk to the satellite. SMS is restricted to 160 characters and it works on every cell phone, even flip phones.
We are going to talk a lot more about SMS in the very near future, but that’s it for right now. Actually, it’s also important to think about SMS as a standard or protocol. It works across different vendors. At some level it’s the same for an organization when they send a text message to a Verizon phone and an AT&T phone.
Closely related to SMS is MMS. MMS is picture and video messages. Also available on all phones. MMS is a protocol and it’s basically built into the SMS capabilities on every phone.
Moving on from SMS and MMS to other types of messaging. I guess we have to mention RCS - Rich Communications Services. The best way to think about RCS is SMS 2.0. The cell phone carriers used to make a lot of money with text messaging. Remember when it was part of the plan that you had to choose? So they really liked SMS, but then all of these messaging apps that we’re about to talk about started popping up. And these messaging apps have more features than SMS, and they are free.
So the cell phone carriers decided to make RCS, which is SMS with more features. It shouldn’t be that hard right, because all of the messaging apps can have features, so why can’t SMS. But the problem is that SMS is a protocol and it works across all the carriers and the phones. So getting all of the carriers to agree and move forward together is the biggest issue.
RCS became a project in 2007 and the initial release was 2012, but it’s been 5 years and no one is really using it. It seems like the carriers are getting on board now, but they might not matter all that much now. Android and google are backing RCS, but I don’t think Apple is. So if the idea is that RCS is SMS 2.0 and it works on every phone, that just can’t happen without Apple, they have iMessage and a billion iPhones out there. Google and andoid likes RCS, but they have their own messaging issues.
Overall who cares, no one really needs a new messaging app, as we’ll see.
So RCS is a nice bridge for OTT Messengers. This means Over the Top which is a pretty dated term that means an app is using data to pass messages rather than SMS. iMessage is probably the most unique OTT Messenger.
So Apple makes the iphone obviously and the iphone has an SMS app. iMessage is a little sneaky because it lives in the SMS app and basically jumps in front of the SMS and sends an iMessage if both the sender and recipient have an iPhone. It’s unique because they just started doing it - basically faking SMS messages and no user even knew it was happening. And now they are building out iMessage features, it connects to desktop and they are opening it up as a platform in 2018. So developers can build on it.
It’s kind of genius how they got a billion users. I should say that I switched to Android, so I don’t even know what’s new with iMessage, and iMessage is only available on iphones, which probably sucks.
The other big, unique OTT is Facebook Messenger. Obviously Facebook Messenger is connected to Facebook. Where Apple took all of their devices and pushed people into iMessage, Facebook is taking their social network and pushing people into Messenger.
They are also one of the first & biggest OTTs to open up the platform to developers. So in April 2016 they launched the Messenger platform, and that allows developers to build applications that connect to Messenger. This generated a ton of buzz and hype and brought into vogue the word bots or Chatbots. I hate that word, and it’s a big reason that I’m doing this Solo Series - to show Messaging separate from bots.
Anyways, the other interesting thing about Facebook Messenger is that it plugs into the Facebook Ad network. So there is a clear, trackable and target-able way to drive people into Messenger - and that way is Facebook Ads.
Moving on - some of the stuff I said about Facebook was a lie. They weren’t the first & biggest OTT to open a platform. That might be WeChat. WeChat is a Messaging platform in China and it’s supposedly the biggest thing there since rice. With the Facebook platform release, supposedly they are copying features and approach from WeChat.
I’ve never used it personally, but the story is that in China everyone uses WeChat instead of apps. So when you need to call an uber/car service or do anything on the phone, it’s through WeChat.
The other big OTT is WhatsApp. They are owned by Facebook, and absolutely huge. But there isn’t anything special about them other than they have a lot of users.
There are probably 50 other OTTs. The big ones are Telegram, Kik, Viber, Google Allo (so why do they have RCS) and there are country specific OTT in India and Japan. It’s just huge and I’m sure there are differences, but I don’t know them.
The next big category is probably Enterprise Messengers. Here we have Slack, Skype and maybe Linked In. Slack is a darling of the tech space, but it’s much more for internal communications than B2C. I don’t have many thoughts on these enterprise messengers right now other than they seem different from SMS and the OTTs discussed above.
There are a few messengers left that are hard to categorize. Twitter Direct Messages are a thing. They should be similar to Facebook Messages, but they just aren’t. I don’t know why. Twitter just released a platform so that developers can build DM applications, but I haven’t seen one ever. I worked on a Twitter DM application a long time ago and the APIs were just not ready. I had a specific tech question and there was just no documentation and I couldn’t get any response.
I don’t mean to badmouth them. DMs are probably a messaging channel, but really different from something like iMessage and I’m not sure where DM fit in.
The other messaging channel that’s hard to categorize is Snapchat. So this is really tricky. I don’t know that much, but I think you can be a brand on Snapchat and create stories, but to do anything with Snapchat is really expensive and more like media or partnerships. I don’t think a company could really build a messaging app and connect it to Snapchat.
I’m sure that I missed some. Would love to hear…
Next we’re going to dig a little deeper into SMS. There are many different approaches and some terms that are SMS 101, which we’ll talk through.