Messaging overload

Today, Facebook accidentally released and then unreleased its new Snapchat competitor, Slingshot, adding to the already crowded messaging space.

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the messaging services I had on my phone; WhatsApp, Line, Snapchat, Skype, Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. Six apps that all serve basically the same purpose in a different way; communicating with friends.

I remember two years ago being excited for the convergence of messaging apps; when I could use Windows Live Messenger/AIM/Skype/Google talk in [one app](! I remember thinking that it was exciting to have less apps, not more, to message my friends.

After all, it’s a hassle to maintain friends lists in all these different places… and you eventually have those conversations along the lines of “is it better to Snapchat you or send you a Twitter DM?”

We’re now going in the complete opposite direction of convergence. Every major player wants its own messaging app, its own spin on talking to your friends. Each of these apps adds a cognitive overhead - another place to check. Another app with icons nagging for your attention. Another thing to spread your attention even thinner on.

Recently I set a goal of having only a maximum of 8 apps able to send push notifications on my phone, after reading this great piece about how your mind is manipulated through notifications and mobile apps. The list of apps that can now alert, for me, is:

The rest are just pull notifications. I open the app to see what’s up when I want to. I thought about it in terms of ‘do I need to know about this now?’ For example, who cares if I get Instagram likes or comments? They aren’t urgent, nor do I need to know about them, so why should it alert me?

I’m tired of needing 10+ apps to do the basic task of talking to people; how long until everyone else gets messaging app fatigue too? Why aren’t we happy with just using iMessage or one of the messaging apps we already have?

I hate to say ‘peak messaging’ is a thing, but I suspect in the near future, users will be tired of messaging apps and we’ll start heading the other way again.

There’s only so many ways users will need to be able to send messages to friends, even if they are super creative, so I suspect we’re about to reach some sort of saturation point.


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