Messaging Apps a Threat to Facebook and (Probable) Reason for Press Event Thursday

HTC Facebook phoneFacebook has been cruising along so far in 2013. The platform has been making changes that are good for businesses and agencies, and at the very least, neutral for its users. The company’s stock is holding well above its lowest points of last fall, and it appears Facebook is getting settled into being a publicly traded company with all of the pressures that go along with that. Unfortunately for Facebook, there could be some serious competition for keeping tech-savvy youth on their platform.

Messaging Apps on the Rise

Unbeknownst to me, according to Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic for Reuters, “hundreds of millions of tech-savvy young people have…turned to a wave of smartphone-based messaging apps…sweeping across North America, Asia, and Europe.” I guess that means I’m no longer young, or tech savvy, or both. This is unfortunate news for me and for Facebook.

A primary focus for Facebook has been improving its mobile app – which is still the most used mobile app – for users, businesses, and agencies. Now it has some serious competition within a very important demographic. Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch explains the attraction of these messaging apps, writing that they, “succeed by focusing on brief one-to-one or group communication with…direct sharing of media like YouTube clips, audio, and games.”

This means that the messaging apps bypass carrier SMS plans as well as Facebook’s text only messaging service. If users aren’t using Facebook to communicate, they aren’t seeing ads, which are the lifeblood of Facebook. This isn’t just a few million young people here or there using these messaging apps. Darrell informs that “Kik has 40 million users” and WeChat has over 400 million users. In Asia LINE and KakaoTalk have around “120 million and 80 million users respectively.”

This is a trend that should worry Facebook, and it appears it has been. They are planning a press event Thursday and it looks as if it is related to their foothold in the mobile world.

Facebook’s Response on the Way?

Facebook has been hyping a press event and announcement set for this Thursday, April 4th, since last week. The internet has been buzzing with rumors and ideas about what exactly will be announced. So far the only information we have from Facebook is the title of the event: “Come See Our New Home On Android.”

What the analysts and bloggers believe is coming, is a modification on the long-held rumor that a Facebook phone would be released by the company. Nitin Puri at ZDNET reports that Facebook is set to release a phone “rumored to be a collaboration between Taiwan’s HTC,” running software which is “a customized version of the Google Android 4.2 OS.”

Even more importantly, the new event could release the heavily-modified Android OS so that it could be available on all Android phones. The rumored HTC phone might just be a way to show it off. Josh Constine has a great article covering the information behind a modified Android OS and a modified and customized Android homescreen.

Will It Work?

While Facebook is incredibly popular and widespread, I just don’t see people taking the time to change or update their OS to a more Facebook oriented one. Sure people might buy a phone with it implemented already, and I’m positive HTC is betting on that, if the rumored phone is true. I think Facebook should be focusing on its messaging service in order to combat messaging apps. There’s no reason they couldn’t implement a lot of the benefits these messaging services provide to users.

I’m skeptical of how Facebook is going about this mobile strategy, if these rumors are true. I’ll be paying attention on Thursday to see what comes out of Facebook, along with millions of others.

What do you think about messaging services competing with Facebook? Is Facebook going in the right direction?

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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