Messaging competition intensifies with Facebook, Google and Yahoo


fbmThere hasn’t always been a music angle to the rise of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat, but the massive audiences and expanding features of these services has been an important trend for the industry to follow.

There’s plenty of news this morning to remind us why, starting with Facebook. The European Commission has approved the social network’s $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp, which with 600m active users is the biggest app in the space.

The EC concluded that the deal won’t pose a threat to competition, even though WhatsApp will now sit alongside Facebook Messenger, which has 300m users of its own.

Facebook has consistently maintained that it won’t merge the two apps, so how does it plan to differentiate them? TechCrunch provided part of the potential answer yesterday with a scoop on Facebook’s plans to add peer-to-peer payments to Facebook Messenger.

Based on screenshots uncovered by a curious student poking about in code, they appear to show a new payment option that “lets users can send money in a message similar to how they can send a photo. Users can add a debit card in Messenger, or use one they already have on file with Facebook”.

It certainly sheds new light on Facebook’s recent appointment of former PayPal boss David Marcus as head of Messenger.

Facebook’s rivals aren’t resting on their laurels watching the company innovate, though. India’s Economic Times carried an interesting report on Friday on Google’s plans to launch its own WhatsApp, having been rebuffed by that company when trying to buy it before Facebook did.

The report claims Google’s new messaging app will be tested first in India and other emerging markets, but that it won’t launch until 2015. There are no details on likely features, other than that users won’t be forced to sign in with their Google accounts, and that it may include voice-to-text messaging.

Could music be a part of any such app? Let’s see what’s happening in India around YouTube and Google Play All Access by 2015 to divine that.

Finally, Yahoo is making its own play in mobile messaging, buying an app called MessageMe for a rumoured price of between $30m and $40m. The app itself is being shut down “allowing us to focus on helping build the best mobile communications products for Yahoo users” according to its founders – standard fare for Yahoo acquisitions nowadays.

TechCrunch suggests that SnapChat was also interested in MessageMe, and reports that the members of its team that have been hired by Yahoo will be working on a new messaging product of some kind.

MessageMe’s iPhone app hadn’t been updated since November 2013, so – unfortunately for anyone using it as their main messaging app – it looks to have been built to sell to a nervous internet giant rather than to build a long-term standalone success. An ambition hardly unknown in the world of music startups, although messaging firms are having more success with it.

Written by: Stuart Dredge