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Are mobile messaging apps the new social network? - Pranav Bhasin's Product Lens

Are mobile messaging apps the new social network?

This afternoon, I was discussing the rumors of Whatsapp being acquired by Google ( now debunked ) for 1 Billion Dollars, when a strange thought crept into my mind:

Are mobile messaging apps the new social network?
Could they eventually lead to the demise of facebook?
Is that why Google and Facebook are both desperately trying to acquire them?

It might sound like a completely absurd thought, given how big and mighty Facebook is today. However, do not discount the pace of change in the online world today, especially the social networking space. After all, MySpace was equally big and infallible when Facebook felled it.

So what makes me think this will happen, you may ask! So here you go with my ramblings:

  1. User behavior on mobile is very different from the web. Facebook news feed and timeline are a solution built primarily for the web and is fairly complex and slow for the mobile world. Facebook is already having trouble getting adoption for it on the mobile, though given its huge reach, the numbers don’t directly reflect it yet. Messaging on the other hand is a very simple phenomenon and comes naturally on the mobile.
  2. Across the globe, people are used to texting. However, since operators charge for texting, people always look for cheaper / free options and messaging apps very conveniently serve the need. With the 3G / WiFi connectivity becoming commonplace, you can use them most of the time at a fraction of the cost.
  3. The primary reason for the success of Facebook was its ability to get “authentic” profiles of its users online while other social networks struggled with fakes. As of today, Facebook predominantly uses the mobile number for validation of a profile, so anything that sits on the phone itself has an obvious advantage.
  4. The term “social network” refers to people who you socialize with. And what better place to find your social network than the address book of your phone itself. This is something that all messaging apps are already taking advantage of, to get started.
  5. The competitive advantage for Facebook lies in protecting its graph of user connections, something it has worked hard to do despite privacy concerns. With your phone address book seeding your social network, this competitive advantage is completely bypassed thereby making Facebook very vulnerable to attack.
  6. And finally, mobile is disrupting a lot of businesses as we know them today – photo sharing apps like Instagram being a great example. I strongly believe that the next leading social network will be born with a mobile first strategy.

And if that’s not sufficient to get you sold on my perspective, take a look at the chart below and the reach messaging apps have rapidly built in the last couple of years.














No wonder, Facebook is after them to protect its turf and Google is after them to become a leader in the only domain that has left it flummoxed – “Social Networking”.

Do you think that messaging apps have the potential to be the “Facebook Killer”. Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

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