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Messaging as a Programming Platform

Messaging vendors are reinventing themselves as platforms for innovations – taking bigger chunks of communications and opening up to other services.

We tend to view Google and Apple as the developer platforms these days. For developers who need communication capabilities, this poses several challenges:

• You can't connect programmatically to iMessage or FaceTime. While these two are great experiences for Apple's products, they don't exist out of the Apple ecosystem and they aren't accessible at all.

• Google Hangouts isn't as big when it comes to real and active usage – even if it is preinstalled on Android devices. I wonder how many people install and use it on their iPhone.

• Push notifications are nice, but they work differently across operating systems, so companies end up using third parties such as Urban Airship. But that's more about notifications and upsell and a lot less about social interaction. Oh – and they need you to install your app on the device first.

• And there's no real social graph to speak of that you can tap into that runs across devices and operating systems. At least not coming from Google and Apple.

So what's a developer to do if they need some social aspects? One option is Facebook. The other is a messaging platform vendor.

We've seen this being adopted for non-communications before: Gaming was introduced to Tango, Line and KakaoTalk respectively.

In 2014, this type of activity has increased a lot. Here are some interesting moves made recently:

• The Nabu wearable will be connected via WeChat, enabling customers to get notifications from the device. Later on this may include social aspects such as sharing fitness stats and exchanging contacts.

LG's consumer electronics connect to Line. An Internet of Things type of use case where a fridge or a washing machine can send its notifications to a messaging app.

Salesforce gets into partnership with Line, enabling companies to connect to customers through the messaging service.

WeChat adds one-click payment, beefing up its ecommerce capabilities that enable brands to open shops within the WeChat app.

Line is also experimenting with ecommerce.

• Need to order a Taxi? Easy Taxi and WeChat partnered towards that end – so you don't need to leave the chat service.

This far exceeds the naïve instant messaging use case.

With Whatsapp passing the 500 million monthly active users and the rest of the pack anywhere between 100-400 million each, these platforms have the ubiquity and the scale necessary.

Messaging vendors are reinventing themselves as platforms for innovations – taking bigger chunks of communications and opening up to other services. It seems like a lot of trial and error is taking place, with the vendors checking many different angles. The interesting part is that all the innovation in this area comes from the Asia Pacific messaging players. They are the only ones that caught on to the fact that communications is a commodity – one that cannot be properly monetized without adding context.