Much of the tech news last week was about Facebook’s huge deal to buy the WhatsApp messaging service. (One economist pointed out that the $19 billion purchase price exceeds the World Bank’s total annual lending.) Google was reportedly also interested in WhatsApp. Why is a messaging app such a hot property? Partially because WhatsApp has a solid presence in the fiercely competitive Asian mobile market, where smartphone messaging is done a little differently than it is in the United States. And partially because technology that works well in Asia often finds its way to America. And if that happens, social networks like Facebook do not want to get pushed aside.
- Upsetting the app cart: Asian messaging services challenge mobile order (Reuters/Jeremy Wagstaff) “More than half of all smartphone users are active users of such [messaging] apps, according to Analysys Mason, and the volume of messages has already overtaken traditional SMS short messages, and will double again this year. Riding this wave are dozens of companies peddling mobile messaging apps, with some able to gather a critical mass of 100 million users or more. By offering compelling mixes of chat, downloadable icons and games, LINE, KakaoTalk and WeChat have emerged as some of the most popular in Asia.”
- Messaging services shaking up telecom sector (eNCA/AFP) “Some analysts expect more deals to come now that it’s clear that messaging is becoming a killer app that can enable mobile phone users around the globe to get free from their local carriers and communicate freely worldwide. Declan Lonergan, analyst at Yankee Group, said the new focus on messaging ‘signals the growing importance of IP communications in consumers’ lives.’ ‘Facebook’s valuation of WhatsApp is shockingly high, but so too is the risk of being left behind as these apps become dominant platforms for communications, media distribution, social engagement and advertising,’ Lonergan said in a blog post.”
- Lessons for Facebook: How WhatsApp went from red-hot to passé in Southeast Asia (The Next Web/Jon Russell) “WhatsApp sits behind dominant local players in China, Japan and Korea, but its experiences in Southeast Asia — where its popularity is varied — provides important lessons for Facebook if it wants to keep its sparkling new acquisition in vogue among a sea of competing, and well-funded messaging rivals. In particular, WhatsApp is coming under pressure from a new breed of ‘platform’ messaging apps that go beyond replacing SMS to provide a range of connected services, like games, virtual content, video/voice calling, e-commerce and more.”
- Five unusual ways in which Indians use mobile phones (BBC/Tushar Banerjee) “India’s newest political party — Aam Aadmi Party (or Common Man Party) — which now rules Delhi, launched a membership drive earlier this month by urging citizens to give a missed call to their phone number. The AAP officers would then get in touch with the callers and get them formally enrolled into the party. The AAP claims it has added more than 700,000 people to the party through missed calls in less than a month.”
OK, that last article is a bit off-topic, but if you’ve never heard the phrase, “give a missed call,” the Wikipedia article is pretty interesting.