Messaging apps

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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,[1] 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,[2] Google's Hangouts, Blackberry Messenger, 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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

The United States is notably different to most of the rest of the world – SMS remains popular because it is usually included free in monthly phone bundles,[7] and Apple's iMessage is popular, and uses SMS for messages to non-Apple phones.[8] 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.[7]


Messaging apps each have some of the following features:

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

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] Among the first companies announcing service on the enterprise platform were airlines KLM and Aeroméxico,[19][20] Latin American online travel agency[21] and online retailer Linio.[22]

List of messaging apps

Consumer apps

Messaging app Owned by No. of users Notes
Blackberry Messenger (BBM) Emtek (Indonesian telco) 63 million monthly active users (January 2018);[5] 60 million total users in Indonesia alone[23] As of 2017, was still popular in some emerging markets such as Indonesia and Nigeria, and added feature to call an Uber in Indonesia.[24]
Discord Discord Inc. 130 million unique users (May 2018)[25] Originally designed for video gaming communities, supports text, image, video and audio communication between users in a chat channel.
Facebook Messenger Facebook 1.3 billion monthly active users (January 2018)[5] Blocked in China.[26]
Google messengers Google Google has numerous apps with messaging capabilities, including Google Hangouts Chat (now including the former Google Talk/Google Chat), Android Messages, Google Voice, Jive Social Intranet Software, Duo video calling.[27] Google Spaces and Allo[28] have been discontinued. As of May 2018, Google will now focus on updating its native Android Messages app with features based on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) protocol instead, while pushing for wide adoption of RCS by mobile network operators.[28]
Hike Messenger Hike Pvt Ltd. 100 Million registered users (January 2016), active users unknown. Mostly in India[29] Backed by Tencent and Foxconn[29]
iMessage Apple Inc. On 700 million phones[30]
KakaoTalk Kakao 49 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5] South Korean "super app"[31]
Kik Messenger Kik Interactive 15 million monthly active users (August 2017)[32] Most users are aged 13–24.[32]
LINE Naver Corporation 203 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5] First launched in Japan. Has developed strong social and gaming features. A leading mobile gaming app publisher on Google Play.[5]
QQ Messenger Tencent 843 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5] mostly in China
Signal Open Whisper Systems 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.[33][34][35][36]
Skype Microsoft Corporation 300 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5]
Snapchat Snap Inc. 260 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5]
Telegram Telegram Messenger LLP 200 million monthly active users (February 2018),[37]
Twitter Twitter 330 million monthly active users on the entire platform (January 2018)[38] Top user count in U.S., Brazil, Japan and Mexico[38]
Viber Rakuten 260 million monthly active users (January 2018),[5] Originated as competitor to Skype with strong VOIP offering.
WeChat Tencent 1.3 billion monthly active users (January 2018),[5] mostly in China
WhatsApp Facebook, Inc. 1.3 billion monthly users (January 2018)[5] Blocked in China.[26]
Zalo VNG Corporation 35 million active users (December 2017), mostly in Vietnam[39]

Discontinued consumer apps

Messaging app Owned by No. of users Notes
GroupMe Microsoft Corporation 12 million registered users (2013)[40]

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.[41]

Messaging app Owned by No. of users Notes
Google Hangouts Chat[41] Google 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.[42]
Microsoft Teams Microsoft
Slack Slack Technologies 6 million daily users (March 2018)[43] Positioned as a collaborative tool for work
Workplace Chat Facebook Workplace launched a Workplace Chat app that works on iOS, Android, PCs and Macs.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Line: We’re A Social Entertainment Platform, Not Just A Free Calls Messaging App Accessed on 21 January 2015.
  2. ^ Most Popular Social Messaging Apps, December 2013 Accessed on 21 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Twitter is a messaging app now that it's finally removed the 140 character limit on direct messages".
  4. ^ "Twitter now acts more like a messaging app with read receipts, typing indicators & web link previews".
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Most popular messaging apps 2018 - Statista". Statista.
  6. ^ Messenger Wars: How Facebook lost its lead by OnDevice Research, a mobile market research company. Accessed on 21 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b Horwitz, Josh. "Why WhatsApp bombed in the US, while Snapchat and Kik blew up".
  8. ^ "Weighing Unlimited Text Messages Against Apple's iMessages".
  9. ^ "Google's new Reply app makes an appearance, link to install inside - Ausdroid".
  10. ^ "The Economist talks on advantages of Line over Whatsapp for mobile messaging push".
  11. ^ "Brief Tutorial - WeChat Open Platform".
  12. ^ "Does Snapchat Discover want to be TV or magazines? Maybe both". Digiday. 20 October 2017.
  13. ^ Cheng, Evelyn (8 October 2017). "Cash is already pretty much dead in China as the country lives the future with mobile pay".
  14. ^ "Trending Stickers, Storage and More". Telegram.
  15. ^ "WhatsApp FAQ - Using Status".
  16. ^ "How savvy, social shoppers are transforming Chinese e-commerce". McKinsey & Company.
  17. ^ Tiersky, Howard. "Success secrets for conversational commerce".
  18. ^ "Building for People, and Now Businesses".
  19. ^ López, Andrea (30 October 2017). "Ahora, gracias a Yalo, podrás chatear con Aeroméxico vía Whatsapp - TecReview".
  20. ^ "Yalo, la tecnología mexicana que lleva Whatsapp a Aeroméxico".
  21. ^ 20Minutos. "Despegar comienza a brindar servicios por WhatsApp".
  22. ^ "Linio primer retailer en implementar WhatsApp Enterprise - Linio Blog MX". 26 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Uber lands on BlackBerry Messenger, confusing everyone".
  24. ^ "Global LinkUP: BlackBerry Messenger is alive and kicking hard".
  25. ^ Grunin, Lori (May 15, 2018). "Discord celebrates its birthday with 130 million users". CNET. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
  26. ^ a b "WhatsApp blocked in China, though past bans proved temporary".
  27. ^ Kapko, Matt. "Trying to make sense of Google's messaging mess".
  28. ^ a b "Google Says Goodbye to Allo Chat App to Focus on RCS Messaging".
  29. ^ a b "Hike unbundles its messaging app to reach India's next wave of smartphone users".
  30. ^ "Here's How Many iPhones Are Currently Being Used Worldwide".
  31. ^ T., Christopher (27 February 2018). "KakaoTalk Review: The Potential Is There, But for Now Video Calling Is a Novelty - VC Daily".
  32. ^ a b Ponciano, Jonathan. "Billion-Dollar Kik Taps $125 Million Token Offering To Energize User Base".
  33. ^ Metz, Cade (5 April 2016). "Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  34. ^ Greenberg, Andy (18 May 2016). "With Allo and Duo, Google Finally Encrypts Conversations End-to-End". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  35. ^ Greenberg, Andy (4 October 2016). "You Can All Finally Encrypt Facebook Messenger, So Do It". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  36. ^ Newman, Lily Hay (11 January 2018). "Skype's Rolling Out End-to-End Encryption For Hundreds of Millions of People". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  37. ^ "200,000,000 Monthly Active Users". Telegram.
  38. ^ a b "• Twitter by the Numbers (2018): Stats, Demographics & Fun Facts". 1 January 2018.
  39. ^ "How Vietnam's answer to WhatsApp, Zalo, began with a hack".
  40. ^ "GroupMe compared to competitors". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  41. ^ a b Dave, Paresh. "Google launches Slack competitor Hangouts Chat".
  42. ^ J., Ethan (7 March 2018). "Stride Video Conferencing Helps Atlassian Take Another Swing at Slack - VC Daily".
  43. ^ Flynn, Kerry. "How Slack's employees use Slack".
  44. ^ Chowdhry, Amit. "How Workplace By Facebook Is Helping Organizations Improve And Enhance Communication". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-16.