If you want to send a message to a friend, acquaintance, colleague, or family member these days, there is a staggering array of digital options you can use. Beyond traditional email and text messages, you can send a WhatsApp, a Twitter DM, a Facebook Message, a Signal message, Viber, Google Allo, Telegram, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, iMessage, Line and many more. While the basic functionality of the messaging components of these apps is the same—send a short, instantaneous message to a person—the additional features and sweeteners such as filters, stickers, and effects that they boast are virtually endless.
According to reports, there will soon be a new one to add to this ever-growing list, coming from Amazon. Amazon’s Anytime app is scheduled to be on the scene soon, and will straddle the line between social network and messaging service. According to The Verge who reported the news, the app will include “an all-in-one feature rich service … with a focus on messaging, voice and video calls, and photo sharing, with users able to apply filters to pictures and videos, @mention other users, use sticker and Gifs, and play games. Users would be able to call (audio and video) other individuals or groups, contact businesses to order products or make reservations. According to the images taken from the survey, the service be secure and encrypted, and would work on a variety of desktop and mobile devices.”
But just because we have this plethora of messaging options, that doesn’t necessarily mean users are thrilled with the utility they offer. The rather mind-boggling selection of options that messengers have is leading to a kind of a fatigue with these apps. It can be hard to keep track of all one’s messages and contacts across so many different platforms and it’s easy to forget what you have and have not replied to. All of which is causing some people to ask: Have we reached peak messenger? And would it not be easier to centralize our messaging needs into a single, streamlined app that offers all the functionality we need?
It’s not just the sheer number of apps that rankles some users, it’s the changing nature of these apps themselves. Like most things Facebook does, the move to introduce ads to Messenger app has not been met with favor. A headline in TechCrunch put it best when it said: “Facebook’s Messenger Ads are Bad and Must Be Destroyed.” In addition to the interruptive nature of the ads, the fact that they’re huge, irrelevant to users, and that it’s not possible to disable them led to great dissatisfaction.
But one public commenter on the article perhaps summed up best what happens when there are so many messaging apps vying for one’s attention: “No surprises here,” the commenter wrote. “The messenger app was bound to be a crappy experience for users, if not for the sole reason we were obligated to install it! Ads on this buggy and useless app (million other chat apps out there) are the last straw, and people will, hopefully, see Facebook for what it really is: a poorly written advertising platform.”
In a sense, the messaging game has changed. Users have little reason to switch to a new app like Amazon’s Anytime unless it offers something truly unique. But when it comes to messaging, there isn’t much space for innovation once you’ve sorted things like security and fun extras. The big risk is making an unpopular move like Facebook’s—introducing ads—and finding your users desert you for any number of the apps that offer the same thing, with less annoyance. The lesson? In the age of peak messenger, tech companies must be aware that their consumer has more choice than ever.