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The disruptive power of Facebook Messenger

Mobile apps have become so ubiquitous that their seems to be an app for anything you can imagine. A select few have disrupted industries (Instagram, Uber). They have become platforms and their global reach is paramount.

Facebook Messenger is an app that particularly stands out. It began as a tool inside of Facebook for users to private message each other. Then several years ago Facebook took a drastic action. It decoupled Messenger from the Facebook mobile app and made it a stand-alone app. At the time the move was viewed as risky/odd/stupid. Users would supposedly be confused (I have to install a different app to see my messages?!).

For me the shift was seamless. I loved how fast the app was. I could see who was online, and whether my message was delivered or read. It was faster than text messaging, and it was free. I didn't realize it then, but Messenger was Facebook disrupting SMS.

Today Messenger goes way beyond text messaging. I can voice or video call my contacts, send them money, pictures, videos, gifs, and even order an Uber. In Messenger I've chatted with customer service representatives (who helped me process a return), and received order confirmation and tracking updates for online orders.

The utility of the app is incredible. With an open platform more and more services are going to "hook up" to messenger. Here are some possibilities:

  • Reserve a table at restaurant XYZ through a message, and receive a message back when your table is ready
  • Apply for a job, do your interview over video, and sign your offer letter all through Messenger
  • Sore left-knee? Tax question? Hungry? Instantly chat with a specialist.
  • Receive real-time message updates for any event (news, sports)

There is an interesting piece by Chris Messina where he coins the idea of an era of Conversational Commerce. Facebook Messenger is a prime example of us getting there.

The features and tools that get added into Messenger will have a compounding effect. I'll refer to them as "Compounding technologies". They remove frictions that are byproducts of antiquated systems or technologies so that it's easier for people to adopt disruptive technologies. An example would be having a key in Facebook messenger that you use to unlock the door to your Airbnb reservation. The friction of key logistics between guest and host is eliminated. Now a weary host has one less pain point that may prevent them from adopting Airbnb.

Facebook Messenger has a lot of opportunity for compounding technologies. I predict that within two years it will be used more frequently than text messaging. Text me will be replaced with message me. And many more companies, services, and bots will manager their communication with users through Messenger.