Disrupting Telecom: A Look at Messaging & How it Changed the Game


Telecommunication companies ruled the early telephone era, but now their power is decreasing.

The way we communicate over long distances has been evolving since ancient times. From the usage of beacons and drums to the electrical telegraph and telephone, the telecommunication industry has seen its share of disruption throughout human history.

With today’s usage of mobile phones and the Internet, a new form of disruption has arisen. Free messaging applications have taken the world by storm, and are used in almost every aspect of communication.

So when did this all start?

In the early 1990s, the first “chat rooms” came about, allowing groups of people to message and be seen by the group. It wasn’t until 1996 that Instant Messaging (IM) really exploded.

For those internet old timers, the software that famously changed the game was ICQ, which established itself as a free instant messaging software that communicated with their server. This became the precursor that opened the door to today’s market.

AOL started up around the same time and acquired ICQ in 1998. They then created AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), putting them on the map as leaders in the IM industry.

Both Yahoo and Microsoft entered the market with their own products, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger, and later joined forces in 2006 to compete with AOL.

Talk followed suit

But you may ask, how were the telecom companies (telephone operators) handling this competition?

Telecom companies experienced steady revenue growth for many years up until 2008. Around that time, smartphones started to grow in popularity. The data being used looked lucrative to telecoms, as you had to spend money when you text and call through a mobile plan or pay as you went.

But little had they known, in that year of 2008, a familiar company named Apple would introduce a software store and release their first 500 Apps.

This paved the way for the emergence of IM through mobile applications with no usage fees or additional charges. All you had to do was connect to the internet and you could text or voice chat.

Apple’s emergence with their app store paved the way for Instant Messengers

Despite a massive growth in mobile data usage since 2008, the revenues seen by telecom companies have stagnated, according to a Strategy Analytics Wireless Network Service (WNS) report. The revenues coming from text and voice calls have taken its toll on them.

With the emergence of voice chat, along with IM applications, it’s only increasing the struggles for telecom.

So who are the top IM applications of today?

Top six Instant Messaging apps by number of users

Facebook is surely leading the way with owning the two top players,  Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Next in line are the two Chinese giants WeChat and QQ Mobile which have taken hold of the Chinese market. Beneath them are Snapchat and Telegram.

Are we looking at another disruption?

Data is becoming a sensitive topic for savvy users, and currently the top 5 IM’s are not protecting user data. Data revenue in recent years has come under fire with scandals of people’s information being sold freely to companies around the world.

The public concern has even got the US Government involved and public opinion shows people want their personal data protected.

So what could be the new wave of IM disruption?

With consumer behaviors seeking more data protected security, we should expect new companies who offer  decentralized approaches for user data to begin taking market share. The centralized model that gathers user data and sells it could see a drop, with users conscious of these companies behaviors. With forms of advert monetization directly within these messaging applications, dislike of the Pay Per Click (PPC) models have created distractions with our daily interaction routines.

This opens the doors to more data protected service oriented IM’s. Meaning, you can do much more than just message and voice call but also receive payments, marketplace access and business services, all while the data is being protected by the user. With the ad model also taking a toll from the rise of adblocker, on both desktop and mobile new models are imminent.

Whether you are one of those data conscious people or simply tired of telecom companies overcharging for their services, using IM’s is the best cost-saving approach. And with data protecting trends entering the market, the public can finally be protected.

Here at Sidekick, we strive to be a leader in private data instant messaging. Our application is incorporating key added services for payments, including a marketplace ecosystem for individuals, businesses, educators and influencers.

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