Instant Messengers in 2020 and Beyond: What to Expect in the Future?

1 Jul 2020

Instant Messengers in 2020 and Beyond: What to Expect in the Future?

The growth of instant messengers is exponential, it leaves social media platforms far behind, and frankly, makes them look inadequate in comparison.

In 2019 there were 3.9 billion instant messenger users, and now Juniper Research predicts that IM services will grow as much as 9% in 2020 and reach 4.3 billion users. COVID-19 crisis plays a big role in this growth, pushing people and companies to free, user-friendly, and efficient methods of communication.

Consumer-oriented IM services are now used even more prominently to collaborate and share internal information with various degrees of sensitivity. Major security risks that come with this practice do not worry most organizations enough to adjust their communication strategies, leaving a clear message to the industry titans.

Things that will disrupt the instant messenger market would not be predominantly security-related, but will continue to concentrate on making our lives more convenient.

So what’s in the pipeline? What features have been discussed before as market-disrupting?

E-commerce: The Present and the Future

Juniper report underlines that digital payments managed within the apps will dramatically boost the use of messengers.

This is not a revelation, as WeChat, the third most popular messenger in the world, has already incorporated it in its portfolio and has made itself an undisputed cornerstone of the Chinese digital life. WeChat belongs to Tencent Holdings ‒ one of the biggest companies in the world, it is worth well over $500 billion. 

You might want to know that the messenger in question appeared in 2011 and started out as an equivalent to WhatsApp. 

That little detail did not stop Tencent from attempting to acquire WhatsApp in 2014, but then the fate interfered. Tencent’s CEO Tony Ma had to deal with a surgery, giving Mark Zuckerberg an opening to hit the panic button and swoop in. That wasn’t the end, just the beginning.

Tenecent’s huge reach and involvement in the gaming industry, and its relation to Riot Games, helped the messenger make the most out of integrating digital payments. Today WeChat also offers travel booking, food delivery, digital shopping services, and even dating services. It allows marketers to expand their vendor strategies into the messaging space, create programs within the app, and interact with customers through customer support or a designated chatbot. 

In 2020 Facebook has launched a digital payment service in WhatsApp, so two giants agree that simplifying online payments is the way to go. Unfortunately for one of them, WhatsApp Payments were suspended in Brazil 9 days after launch due to regulatory pressure.

Instant Translation in Consumer-Grade Applications

Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or WeChat wouldn’t limit themselves in growth and would go to impressive lengths to make themselves more appealing.

WeChat itself was known as Weixin (micro-message in Mandarin), before changing its name to a less domesticated variant to attract more international users. If the desire to expand internationally is so strong, perhaps a more sophisticated and secure instant translation of messages within the chat would be a good development path to explore? 

Perhaps this is a pipe dream that is not possible, so it’s not something companies pursue, but there are some specialized applications that tackle the problem of the language barrier, and security issues do not stop them from rolling out a useful feature. 

Viber, for example, offers you any message translation through a third-party translation service, meaning that users have to sacrifice the confidentiality of the messages to take advantage of the translation feature.

The end-to-end encryption question also comes to mind. Viber notes that the message is no longer encrypted when you request a translation (even from a secure chat), and that the service is provided by an external company ‒ usually Google Translate or Azure Translator, which should not be standard translation options even for messengers outside of the top three. The quality of translation should be massively improved.

In the ideal world, users deserve to have an app that will “break language barriers” without compromising message confidentiality.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Inside the Messengers?

Is there a need for this in instant messengers? Same messengers that are still miles away from polishing voice recognition and text-to-speech technology? Maybe so.

Instant messengers perhaps don’t need to incorporate virtual and augmented reality, but if someone seriously taps into these waters, others will feel the pressure to follow suit. In such a competitive niche one unique feature can make or break the product, and virtual reality is something many people take an interest in. 

Gamers, for example. Perhaps this is something that Tencent would have an advantage in?

On paper it would be nice to see your friends and family in 3D, without the need to compose texts or start a video call with them. In reality, Facebook Messenger has only brought augmented reality to Messenger bots in 2018. Not a lot of progress was made since.

So when we talk about instant messengers, we can talk and think big and offer some grand ideas, but they won’t make much sense if the overall level of security stays at the same level. 

In consumer-oriented messages, security standards are practices still have a long way to go, and with WeChat and Facebook Messenger, the 180 change is just unrealistic. 

Instant messengers mentioned in this article will enjoy growth, and will roll out mind-blowing features while getting more data, more money, and then even more users. It’s entirely possible that in five years from now instant messengers will be obsolete, and something entirely new will take up all our attention. 

But one thing is for certain. 

We will get a lot of features that developers will make us love, but they will never give us what we really need ‒ respect for our privacy and human rights. If you’re interested in the alternative approach and security-first stance, StealthTalk can satisfy your needs.

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