Not chat apps

Chat apps were once for digital p2p1 communication—chatting.

Now chat apps have become the media for news, faux news, entertainment, memes, commerce, and more. They are a combination of, for old school web-ers, a portal, a usenet or yahoo group or bulletin board, and mass email (with everyone in cc).

With chat apps no longer primarily the medium for p2p digital communication, what is the new chat app?

In corporate environment, this p2p role is partly fulfilled by Slack DMs and email. Which app will fulfil this role in personal use case?

Why current chat apps succeed and fail

One feature that helped modern chat apps gain mass adoption and success is group chat. Group chats increase the virality of messaging, and help create new connections. The larger number of participants in any group chat also ensure a greater throughput of content, which keeps everyone engaged. From a content (or message) distribution point as well, groups provide greater reach with a single message. Finally, the groups are a good way of continuing and expanding another Facebook network phenomenon—lots of regular but weak connections, no/few strong direct connections.

Groups are a reason why p2p messaging suffers in these modern chat apps. P2p chat is characterised by high-variance and lower cumulative volume in throughput compared to group chats. In apps, the p2p chats are placed together with (the high content throughput) group chats. The p2p chats lose out two counts.

  1. Placement—chats with more recent messages appear higher so group chats tend to float on top, and
  2. Active intent—users learn quickly that the probability of finding interesting content is higher in group chats so open them more often.

The outcome is that slowly the p2p chat in modern chat apps gets relegated to secondary status.

TK: Why modern chat apps don’t want to address the death of p2p chat, and why a separate standalone app may be needed.

  1. person-to-person, in contrast to the largely person-to-group communication that happens in modern chat apps. I’m thinking ICQ, Y! messenger, GTalk, versus WhatsApp, et al. 

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