Around the turn of the century, text messaging became a revolutionary new way to communicate.
An entire new lexicon was born. Emoji proliferated, abbreviations flourished, and academics wept at the English language’s desecration in the hands of txting teenagers.
Yet just as messaging was beginning to lose its lustre, encryption rocketed it back into the public consciousness.
Rocket from the ‘crypt
Instead of conventional SMS messages, encrypted communication platforms like WhatsApp became the favoured way to communicate without actually having to speak to anyone.
Colourful emoji are a quantum leap away from the symbol-generated winking faces of yore.
Crucially, senders can check whether respondents have received and read their messages.
Facebook executives noticed WhatsApp’s growth, and bought it for $19 billion. The platform now has 1.5 billion users, who check their mobile apps 23 times per day on average.
Unsurprisingly, the encrypted messaging market has erupted with rival platforms including Viber, Telegram and Signal.
However, none of these alternatives has come close to matching WhatsApp’s market penetration, despite offering subtle variations and improvements.
As Facebook looks to amalgamate WhatsApp with its own Messenger platform, this might finally be about to change.
Google reckon they’ve got the perfect platform to eclipse the company that has already seen off their Google+ social media network…
Getting the message
Google Messages launched its public beta test three weeks ago, enabling the software giant to identify glitches and flaws in both design and functionality.
The app builds on Android Messages, which launched a year ago but was poorly received due to a chaotic operating environment.
However, the ability to read messages on a desktop as well as a smartphone represents one advantage over WhatsApp, which needs an emulator like BlueStacks to work on a PC or Mac.
(Having said that, Telegram has offered full cross-platform messaging functionality for some time, with seamless synchronisation akin to webmail.)
Analysts are waiting to see whether Google Messages will dodge some of the drawbacks inherent in WhatsApp, such as its compression of images to a maximum of 800×600.
Hard information about Messages is hard to come by at present, though it does offer a dark mode for easier use at night.
Unlike WhatsApp, Messages dovetails with Google Assistant, enabling people to send web links and Google business summaries to each other within seconds.
This could appeal to business clients, potentially giving Google Messages a crucial edge
There’s also expected to be a close aesthetic relationship with the next-generation Android version, currently referred to as Q and scheduled to launch later this year.
For instance, content can be viewed transparently behind an overlay, whereas most communications platforms block out content entirely when a pop-up or overlay is displayed.
It remains to be seen how smoothly the app functions once it’s publicly launched, and – crucially – whether enough people switch to Messages from rival services to ensure its success.