Facebook can’t remind us enough that its new messaging service, announced today, isn’t an email killer. Instead, it’s an all-encompassing messaging system that works across Facebook chat, email, and text messages.
Now that we’ve seen the product, it’s clearly not the threat to email we previously thought. But the new messaging service could pose a problem for the hot mobile chat startup Kik, which we’ve covered extensively.
I’ve fallen head over heels for Kik over the past few weeks because it’s built specifically for mobile chat. I’ve always found standard texting technology to be too slow, and even on the iPhone you can feel the creakiness of the aging SMS protocol. Mobile instant messaging is faster, but relies on steady mobile Internet connections. It’s not unusual for me to lose a Google chat or AIM message because of iPhone reception issues.
Kik sits somewhere in between instant messaging and texting — it’s fast, but not reliant on a steady Internet connection. It’s no surprise that Kik’s creator used to work on RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger, a product that many BlackBerry users have grown addicted to because it’s much better than texting. Kik one-ups BlackBerry Messenger by being available on multiple platforms — including the iPhone and Android. (RIM just blocked the service on BlackBerry. Threatened much?)
The service has quickly become my preferred mobile chat method. And with 2.25 million registered users a couple of weeks after launch, it’s clear that Kik is taking off. But after Facebook’s new messaging announcement today, I’m now beginning to wonder if Kik’s days are numbered — or at the very least, if its growth will plateau.
Facebook’s revamped messaging interface lets us carry a conversation from multiple computers, to our phones, seamlessly. The company is betting that convenience will be compelling to its users — which is why Facebook is working so hard to make sure it integrates with existing modes of communication like email and texting. It won’t replace any other communication methods yet, but Facebook is definitely training its users to rely on its messaging service for all of their communication needs.
Facebook’s new messaging service will offer the same sort of instant mobile chat as Kik, but users will also have the option to receive texts or emails if they prefer. Facebook is aiming to get rid of the “BRB” (be right back) message we’ve grown used to leaving when we exit an IM conversation. Now we’ll never have to leave the conversation.
Kik doesn’t offer any sort of desktop component yet, and it also doesn’t integrate with email. It’s purely dedicated to mobile chat. While I still adore Kik for what it offers, the company will certainly need to add more compelling features if it wants to fight off Facebook’s new messaging play.