Messaging apps (a.k.a. "Social messaging" or "chat applications") are apps and platforms that enable messaging, many of which started around social networking platforms, but many of which have now developed into broad platforms enabling status updates, chatbots, payments and conversational commerce (e-commerce via chat).
Some examples of popular messaging apps include WhatsApp, China's WeChat and QQ Messenger, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Korea's KakaoTalk, Google Hangouts, Blackberry Messenger, Telegram, and Vietnam's Zalo. Slack focuses on messaging and file sharing for work teams. Some social networking services offer messaging services as a component of their overall platform, such as Facebook's Facebook Messenger, along with Instagram and Twitter's direct messaging functions.
Messaging apps are the most widely used smartphone apps with in 2018 over 1.3 billion monthly users of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, 980 million monthly active users of WeChat and 843 million monthly active users of QQ Mobile.
In comparison to SMS and instant messaging
Messaging apps differ from the previous generation of instant messaging platforms like the defunct AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger, in that they are primarily used via mobile apps on smartphones as opposed to personal computers, although some messaging apps offer web-based versions or software for PC operating systems.
As people upgraded in the 2010s from feature phones to smartphones, they moved from traditional calling and SMS (which are paid services) to messaging apps which are free or only incur small data charges. Easier group messaging was another advantage of smartphone messaging apps and also contributed to their adoption.
The United States is notably different from most of the rest of the world – SMS remains popular because it is usually included free in monthly phone bundles, and Apple's iMessage is popular, and uses SMS for messages to non-Apple phones. While SMS volumes in some countries like Denmark, Spain and Singapore dropped up to two-thirds from 2011 to 2013, in the U.S. they only dropped around one quarter.
Messaging apps each have some of the following features:
- Voice calls
- Video calls
- Audio alerts (on Line)
- File sharing
- "Mini Programs" (e.g. WeChat Mini Program)
- News discovery (e.g. Snapchat Discover)
- Payments or mobile wallet, e.g. WeChat Pay which processes much of the Chinese mobile payment volume of US$5 trillion (2016)
- Personal (cloud) storage
- Push notifications
- Status updates (WhatsApp Status, WeChat Moments)
- Virtual assistant, e.g. Google Assistant in Google Allo
Reply by Google is a different kind of messaging app that lets users insert suggested replies to messages that they receive in other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack and Hangouts.
Conversational commerce refers to e-commerce through the use of messaging, whether chatbots or via live (human) agents. In China, WeChat – at its core a messaging app, but also letting merchants display their goods in mobile Web pages and via social feeds – has grown strongly. By 2013 e-commerce in China had overtaken that of the U.S. In 2016, Facebook announced its Facebook Messenger chatbot platform, heralding the arrival of conversational commerce via the most widely used messaging app in the world outside China. More than 34,000 businesses had opened shop on Messenger by August 2017. In September 2017 WhatsApp announced the pilot of its new Enterprise solution – the first time large companies would be able to provide customer service to users via WhatsApp at scale. Among the first companies announcing service on the enterprise platform were airlines KLM and Aeroméxico, Latin American online travel agency Despegar.com and online retailer Linio.
List of messaging apps
|Messaging app||Owned by||No. of users||Notes|
|Blackberry Messenger (BBM)||Emtek||63 million monthly active users (January 2018); 60 million total users in Indonesia alone||As of 2017, was still popular in some emerging markets such as Indonesia and Nigeria, and added feature to call an Uber in Indonesia.|
|Discord||Discord Inc.||130 million unique users (May 2018)||Originally designed for video gaming communities, supports text, image, video and audio communication between users in a chat channel.|
|Facebook Messenger||1.3 billion monthly active users (January 2018)||Blocked in China.|
|Google Duo||Video calling|
|Google Hangouts||Replaced the discontinued Google Talk/Google Chat and since 2018 is being split into the Hangouts Meet videoconferencing service and Hangouts Chat|
|Google Messages||Formerly "Android Messages". As of May 2018, Google focuses on updating Google Messages app with features based on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) protocol while pushing for wide adoption of RCS by mobile network operators.|
|GroupMe||Microsoft||12 million registered users (2013)|
|Hike Messenger||Hike Pvt Ltd.||100 Million registered users (January 2016), active users unknown. Mostly in India||Backed by Tencent and Foxconn|
|iMessage||Apple Inc.||On 700 million phones|
|KakaoTalk||Kakao||49 million monthly active users (January 2018),||South Korean "super app"|
|Kik Messenger||Kik Interactive||15 million monthly active users (August 2017)||Most users are aged 13–24.|
|LINE||Naver||203 million monthly active users (January 2018),||First launched in Japan. Has developed strong social and gaming features. A leading mobile gaming app publisher on Google Play.|
|QQ Messenger||Tencent||843 million monthly active users (January 2018), mostly in China|
|Riot.im||New Vector||7 million (according to New Vector - April 2019)||Open-source client with end-to-end encryption, based on the Matrix open standard. It runs on the web, iOS, Android and desktop, and can connect to any Matrix server.|
|Signal||Signal Messenger||An open-source encrypted communications app that is supported by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The project has supplied its end-to-end encryption technology (Signal Protocol) to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Allo, and Skype.|
|Skype||Microsoft||300 million monthly active users (January 2018),|
|Snapchat||Snap Inc.||260 million monthly active users (January 2018),|
|Telegram||Telegram Messenger LLP||200 million monthly active users (February 2018),||Blocked in Russia, Iran and China.|
|Threema||Threema GmbH||4.5 million users|
|Twitter, Inc.||330 million monthly active users on the entire platform (January 2018)||Top user count in U.S., Brazil, Japan and Mexico|
|Viber||Rakuten||260 million monthly active users (January 2018),||Originated as competitor to Skype with strong VOIP offering.|
|Tencent||1.3 billion monthly active users (January 2018), mostly in China|
|Facebook, Inc.||1.3 billion monthly users (January 2018)||Blocked in China.|
|Wire||Wire Swiss GmbH|
|Zalo||VNG Corporation||35 million active users (December 2017), mostly in Vietnam|
Workplace group chat apps
Google and Microsoft as well as Slack provide apps that enable groups to chat, share files and hold group video calls. They are mainly targeted at workplaces rather than individual consumers for private use.
|Messaging app||Owned by||No. of users||Notes|
|Google Hangouts Chat||Google also makes Google Hangout Meet, primarily enabling group video calling|
|Hipchat, Stride||Atlassian||Hipchat was one of the first entrants to the work group chat market. In 2017 Atlassian positioned Stride as an updated replacement for Hipchat.|
|Slack||Slack Technologies||6 million daily users (March 2018)||Positioned as a collaborative tool for work|
|Workplace Chat||Workplace launched a Workplace Chat app that works on iOS, Android, PCs and Macs.|
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