Over the past decade, as the mobile industry has grown to billions of users worldwide, messaging has risen to the top of the product heap. WhatsApp and other messaging services could become the next platforms to reach 1 billion users within a year or two.
But it’s more than just free instant messaging that’s driving the boom. Really, it’s more than even messaging. Like social networks before them, these apps are becoming the hubs for everything global smartphone audiences do on mobile. Messaging apps help people connect with one another, share photos, video chat, and, increasingly — play games, buy digital goods, and even shop offline. It has become a fiercely competitive space, into which Internet giants have poured billions of dollars (including Facebook’s $US19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp).
A new report from BI Intelligence takes a deep dive into the messaging wars. The report contains our exclusive estimates for monthly active users for all the top global messaging platforms — including some like Snapchat and LINE, which do not release MAU numbers.
We describe the similarities and differences between 15 messaging apps, include a case study of Japan-based LINE as an example of how this category can monetise and drive hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Here are some of the top insights on the mobile messaging wars:
- With elegant distribution through mobile app stores and a simple foundation around the phone’s address book, it’s relatively easy for new messaging services to sprout and flourish.
- As network effects build, they can quickly amass tens or hundreds of millions of users and put up impressive growth rates. WhatsApp has over 500 million MAUs and LINE recently passed 400 million registered users (and some 229 million monthly active users, according to BI Intelligence estimates).
- Our data show that WeChat, LINE, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are all growing their user numbers in 2014 at a quarterly rate of 15% or higher.
- They also have huge engagement numbers: New Flurry data show that user sessions on social and messaging apps increased 203% in 2013, a faster leap than for any other app category.
- Messaging apps play a key role in cutting through the noise in the crowded world of mobile content and apps. They are gateways to content, games, communication and increasingly — offline activities.
- Social messages are among the rare mobile push notifications that don’t feel spammy and are likely to be among the first read every time they arrive. This is important for impression-based businesses such as advertising.
In full, the report:
- Publishes full MAU numbers on WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, Snapchat, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and Tango
- Includes a case study on LINE, and how it has built multiple revenue streams — it’s not just dependent on stickers
- Discusses why payments might be a huge opportunity for Facebook’s WhatsApp
- Explains why no other category has grown as quickly in the last few years
- Compares engagement numbers, in terms of app sessions and minutes-spent, for each of the leading messaging services