Monday, August 3, 2015

WhatsApp – The King of Apps?

Talk business or technology, the quintessential question always remains – what next and where do we go from here? Develop an idea enabled by technology, build a viable business plan and get investors to fund the project is fast becoming the way to become an entrepreneur. In most cases, we have now become an app driven community and every person who aspires to come in with a billion dollar idea that can change the world look at apps. What is also means is one has to look back at the millions of apps and programs that already exist in the market to even identify an untapped need. The gap between a concept and an innovative concept is now just growing by the day.

Yes, the advent of a smart phone has actually expanded the horizons of consumer targeted technology and there might be almost every possible need of a common man that the entrepreneurs have been investing for through an app. Even a super niche function like identify the quality of printing on paper (which was something reserved for specialized equipment) is already present in the market and available for free on an app. Most phone applications have evolved from an internet based websites and services. While a few are specially created for the mobile space, there is one undisputed king which only resides on the mobile- WhatsApp.

Now to be fair, WhatsApp is not a complete innovation of sorts. Messaging and media capabilities existed via SMS and MMS for quite some time. The Blackberry Messenger was one thing that made the biggest buzz for buyers outside the corporate domain. The success of WhatsApp possibly came from being amongst the first and versatile data based messaging app that was not limited to any particular mobile operating system.  Its capabilities of sharing photos, videos and forming groups was something that gave rise to social communities through mobiles. In terms of convenience: a voice note just in case you are bored to type or have just one small thing to talk.

It might have taken people a fair amount of time to accept an email or an SMS as a formal form of communication. It has hardly much time to be taken WhatsApp to be taken serious.  To my experience, it has become a means to be at two places without actually being there. A film set is being erected, an event stall is being constructed or anything remote that might take for a person to travel to; it has now become a common practice to send across images or videos over WhatsApp to the approving authority and seek feedback instantly.

Another common practice, form a group on WhatsApp with people work
ing on a project and you have everyone on the same page as if an email update. Groups are a great way to spread information rapidly. The last I know is a short film being released exclusive content on WhatsApp. WhatsApp has also put up a strong fight to voice calling apps like Viber with its calling capabilities. So in a way, WhatsApp has so far had most bases covered in terms of voice based communication and file sharing abilities. So where does it go now?

I guess it might just take a few dips in the near past to believe that social platforms tend to die out the moment they stop evolving. The example of Orkut, Hotmail, Chat Messengers are all examples where they got beaten or replaced by others that had better functionality or enough excitement happening to keep people hooked on all day.  The areas where WhatApp still might lack is Video Calling facilities against, say Facetime. Or the fact that you can connect only by exchanging numbers and not a onetime connect that’s possible via Skype.

One thing that WhatsApp has achieved so far is forming communities within users. Ranging from friends, business circles or even a virtual classroom notice board, it has been adapted in many ways. But if WhatsApp could form communities for a social or a professional outfit, it can be the next stage of brand campaigns or even online PR initiatives. The way news and information (much of the times even improper information) travels via groups has an overwhelming viral effect.  

Having already seen how politicians used WhatsApp during the state elections in Maharashtra, it is already become a mass broadcast medium. If marketing via WhatsApp was an idea so far, what is interesting though is that women with their ever expanding social circles and gossip groups are one strong way that Tupperware ladies have already started taking advantage of. All Tupperware does is create short videos of their products and information previously that required demo is now going across through demo videos.

The final word from me, WhatsApp needs to make a good use of its penetration and evolve into different forms for people and their needs. It has already achieved success over smart phone users which might be at par if not above what Facebook has with the same group – but it is how it will grow and endear itself to the future users that will decide the way ahead. For now, I guess there will be little debate that possibly the most subscribes app makes WhatsApp the king of its domain for now. 

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