It seems like everyone is using Facebook, or other social media platforms these days, except the teenagers that are well-versed in the tech world. These new mobile apps are taking the younger crowd by storm and many are turning their back on web social media sites. These apps allow them to share everything with friends, update their pages and create profiles.
Several of these new smartphone apps are being created by North American companies, such as the popular apps: Whatsapp or Kik. Other apps, such as Kakao Talk or WeChat, that has overtaken the Asian market.
These apps have combined social media networking and text messaging. The apps are a quick way for mobile phone users to share or trade pictures, texts messages or a YouTube video. The technology bypasses SMS plans and social media networks that were created for websites.
With more that a billion users, Facebook still remains the world’s top social media sharing site, but it has been stepping up efforts to expand into this new mobile app industry. Many experts from Silicon Valley, other industry professionals and investors are starting to take notice and thinking these mobile apps may place Facebook in jeopardy. The larger mobile apps are developing platforms that will support applications for third parties, like the games every young person enjoys playing.
A lot of the young people who are using these new apps still remain faithful Facebook users, but many indications show that these apps are making a dent in the market. According to an event held last week for the press, one large mobile app provider plans on announcing plans for Android devices. Android is the operating system used in most of the world’s smartphones. The press is saying this Android version could be an app that has more tools, similar to Facebook or even a smartphone carrying the Facebook brand.
Any company that can take most of the messaging market will be able to challenge Facebook, as well as other social media sites, according to many investors.
A Google Ventures partner, Rich Miner, states that most interactions begin in a conversational method. It seems more people use text messaging, or make phone calls, than they use social media networks. According to Miner, if one firm can dominate this type of traffic, as well as provide social media networking possible over a smartphone, then that could be huge.
Facebook will have to get some of these new mobile apps users back, especially the younger generation and may only be able to do this through creating a mobile app themselves.
For example, Waterloo, a new mobile app, already has 40 million smartphone users since it came online in 2010. Another mobile app provider, MessageMe, is a new start-up that is being funded by First Round Capital and True Venture. MessageMe launched this month and claims to have gotten more than million downloaded within its first week of operation.
Asia is seeing some of the largest growth in this mobile social media app market. According to industry reports, this region of the world is seeing the largest growth in mobile apps. WeChat is already claiming they have 400 million members, more than even Twitter. KakaoTalk and LINE, both out of Asia, clain 80 million and 120 million users respectively. These two are already planning to expand into North American.
Since messaging apps have been growing so quickly, experts believe this shows a Internet usage shift. Websites being visited by computers have been stagnating for years, while the increase in web usage through apps and smartphones have grown dramatically.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook, has already started calling his company a mobile business as a way of placing more emphasis on what the company’s priorities will be in the future. Zuckerberg has already invested a billion dollars into Instagram, a sharing app that lets user share photos, and this app remains hot with mobile users. Facebook has also concentrated on the launch of Messenger, a messaging app that offers smartphone users different tools to communicate.
However, Facebook is still taking defensive measures. Earlier in 2013, Facebook stopped working with start-ups, like Snapchat, then went on the mimic that companies features with another app called Poke, a messaging app that when sent self-destructs. The company has also stopped working with Voxer and MessageMe.
During this same period, Facebook hired artists to design graphics and emoticons for their Messenger app that are similar to the popular features found in Asian apps, like the ones used by LINE.
A former Facebook worker who left the company to start his own social media network called Path, Dave Morin, says he recognized last year that smartphone apps that target messaging and social media tools would quickly take over the market and has been working to incorporate these features into Path. Morin even released an app this month and the number of users downloading Path has already increased by 15 percent.
Social media networks are working hard to design messaging features, mobile apps are incorporating social media networking platforms with a host of different features and also let innovations be designed through outside developers.
A partner at SoftTech VC, Charles Hudson, states that the common method of approaching the development of social media networks is by building the network, then build applications by yourself, then you open that network up to outside developers. This method mirrors Facebook’s original days.
South Korea’s top ten Android apps are made up of eight games that are built on the KakaoTalk app. Tencent recently announced it will be introducing a mobile wallet for their app that would enable users to pay for items with WeChat. Tencent already makes revenue from China using a location app that providers users with information about merchant deals that are going on nearby their customers.
All of these new developments in the smartphone app market will threaten platforms, but no one app company is talking about platform plans, even though experts believe these companies are working hard to create their own social media platforms.
The potential for deals between social media network giants, like Facebook, is already becoming possible. New start-ups in these kinds of mobile apps are in danger of being swooped up by these giants.
Investors are already seeing a new round of buyouts being done that resemble deals that involved several messaging app groups that were done in 2011. Facebook did just this by acquiring Beluga in 2011 and then quickly built their own mobile app, Messenger, which was launched within six months of the acquisition.
Many investors see these potential deals increasing in 2013 and are already planning on investing in these type of deals. Experts do not think it will be a good idea for a company in this industry to remain small after all the potential deals are made.