What are the Group Messaging Wars? It seems like everything is getting a Socialprefix these days, Social-this, Social-that, just put Social in front of it, and it is a big moneywinner. This one is interesting for a number of reasons. The biggest trend in Social-anything is mobile, and that has meant smartphones, at least it did until now, anyway. Social shopping and gaming are huge, but the problem is that smartphones only represent a fraction of the total mobile market. The smartphone share of the US market is about 31 percent, and worldwide, it is just 11 percent.
Facebook claims about 500 million members, with 50 percent of them logging in everyday. Consider that many of these member log-ins come from Facebook connected apps, sites that use a users Facebook log-in for authentication, and the numbers change. What percentage of Facebook members are core, active users is unknown. As big as they are, Facebook needs to expand to garner more active members. For that reason, Facebook recently bought an Israeli company called Snaptu, and the purpose of the acquisition is to bring Facebook to feature phones.
GroupMe And The Dumbphones
Feature phones are cellphones that are not considered smartphones,they are the dumb phones.They do not run iOS, Android OS or Windows Phone or Mobile OS-not even Symbian, well OK, some of the feature phones run Symbian, but not a realpowerhouse version of the OS. Many of them have Internet access in some limited fashion and in spite of the fact that the pundits claim they will be less than 50 percent of the market in the US, they will still be over 50 percent of the market in Europe, and well over 80 percent worldwide. If Facebook or anyone else in the Social market-sphere were to capture new market, it is certainly there.
Who is GroupMe?
GroupMe is a start-up with major capitol backing that was the most talked about at the SXSW (South by Southwest) meeting in 2011. It is a marketing service that adds group messaging to feature (dumb) phones, kind of like SMS on steroids, which is simple, plain old text messaging. They also include phone calls, contact lists, and image sharing; the only service that the company does not include yet is geo-locating that allows contacting near-by contacts.
The company will use Facebook authentication to form groups and allow adding others to those groups; this is big. Why Facebook didn’t just acquire GroupMe is another question, but the fact that it paid $70 million for an obscure Israeli company just days after the SXSW event is telling. What it tells is that social networking is going dumbphone,and truly global. One of the reasons for the acquisition is that Snaptu has developed technology that will work on over 2500 phone models-not smartphones-and had already contracted them to develop a feature phone app for Facebook. GroupMe is the big because they are focusing development on the major smartphone models and offer service on any txt enabled phone.
Facebook Goes Galactic
The Facebook purchase of Snaptu is an important step that will allow the company to offer Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn services to everyone that has a feature phone through an installation or upgrade. There will no doubt be more, and the war will heat up. Facebook is going galactic and it will make every cellphone user a Facebook user, pushing active account numbers to a billion or more in the next 3 years, which is the company’s goal anyway.
This is a powerful statement regarding the ridiculous power of Social Networking. What started out as a means of finding new business contacts, customers, and jobs has become the new Internet paradigm of the 21st century. The Internet will become the backbone for social everything and less of a factor itself. GroupMe is relying on carving out market space before Facebook has a chance to build its new infrastructure.
They are also tracking for the US market. Facebook is moving global with its feature phone services being moved out it countries like Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Tunisia. That is where the billions will come from and Facebook may become a new form of Internet for many, but one that is all about people and contacts rather than pages and content. The successful launch of GroupMe is evidence to support the idea that Facebook is looking to replace the Internet as the primary contact point for the people of the world.
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