Messaging – the next skirmish in the digital war zone?

Image credit: Chamille White /

You would be forgiven for feeling a little confused about the welter of Messaging news falling into our inboxes.

First, Facebook decides it is going to integrate all its Messaging services into one (you have to wonder whether anyone at Facebook ever worked in telecoms and has seen the nightmares of integration).

Then you see another news story that says that Snapchat might be about to launch, wait for it, permanent chats (no-one saw that coming, obviously).

And you have to wonder – why?

Of course Facebook is in the spotlight. The free and open platform became the not so free commercial platform and two things happened.

One, everyone with a grudge decided that it was the place to air said grudge (also recruit people to help circulate propaganda about said grudge).

Two, because it was suddenly commercial, it harvested data to sell to companies who wanted to sell stuff. But not very well.

So it became exactly what it said it would not become.

Facebook Messenger had enormous ambitions. Several years ago it recruited David Marcus (one of the PayPal heroes) to transform Messenger into, well, a place to do everything.

It never made it. Messenger remained a platform that was about, let’s see, messaging.

So is WhatsApp, so is Instagram in a slightly different but clever way.

To try to integrate all of these into one may be a) insane and b) may be a sign of the panic within Facebook HQ.

People are switching off Facebook – but not in numbers that would get them too worried. What is worrying them is the spotlight of regulation that has now pinned them to a global video wall, where everything they do is scrutinised (then fined).

They will be regulated. Already the pressure to install ethics groups and content regulation in-house is growing. They will be under pressure to block grudge content. They will be under pressure – like others – to pay taxes in countries where they sell stuff.

They will be under pressure.

Perhaps the time of Facebook of the free and open content is passing. Perhaps the time of Facebook as the umbrella of private messaging and content, of private groups, is starting. And perhaps they realise that every peer group, every company, every community will want their own way of communicating, their own way of sharing, their own way of keeping in touch.

As the rise of messaging apps continues, whether for business or pleasure and as the regulators apply the pressure, it will be fascinating to watch where Facebook and others head to try and stay cool and relevant.

It is doubtful that they can, but we should never underestimate a company with pockets that deep.

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