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Communication inbound: Rise of the modern messengers

I think we are living through a very interesting time in the history of communication, and that today we are at the edge of a significant move into a new era.

Let me explain. They way I see it, technology has changed the way we communicate and work together several times in the past and will continue to do so in the future. It probably started with the establishment of a reliable post service, which enabled us to send letters from one country to another or even better, from one continent to another.

The following big shift was the introduction of electronic communication with the help of the telegraph, and then through the telephone. Then, in the 1990’s we had the most recent change, when mobile phones and email became ubiquitous. And now over the course of the last few years another big shift has started to emerge, thanks to the development of mobile internet and smartphones.

I believe that there are two significant changes that these will bring to communication:

Firstly, we are “always online” - if mobile phones in the 1990’s made us “always reachable” - now we are not only reachable via plain voice call but through many modes of communication from voice calls to video calls to text messages. If you add in social messaging like Facebook and Twitter on top of that, end users can find themselves with a constant and near continuous flow of communication. To handle this we have to develop new skills and establish a new culture as users to maintain any focus and avoid distractions.

I think all communication services need to acknowledge this and shift their thinking from “how users can create and send more messages to more people more easily” to “how users can cope with the overload of incoming communication”. In other words, services have to be optimised for the receiver instead of for the sender. For example, in Fleep we are building our service from the perspective of how to help the user to maintain their focus and be distracted as little as possible – rather than focusing solely on how the sender can grab the receiver’s attention as fast as possible. This is the opposite to how previous electronic communication services were built – were they’ve always optimised for urgency (to deliver the senders message as quickly as possible).

Secondly, smartphones help to establish a better mix between real time and non-real time communication. In other words, not every question is urgent enough to justify a phone call, so instead users can just send a text message and receivers can respond at a time that suits them. Also, text messages are much better suited to convey factual information (names, addresses, times, etc) that can be easily retrieved, copied and forwarded. While real time voice or video calls are much better ways of expressing emotions, which are sometimes more important than facts. So there are strengths to both, having them each available while at our desks or while on the move gets us into a new environment where we can switch smoothly between different modes of communication, which makes our communication more effective and less distracting.

Technology here of course is just the enabler, but once it becomes available thanks to Fleep and other services, peoples’ communication habits will adapt and change too. In a similar way to how email was first used by the tech industry and then taken up by others, I think the same will happen now with modern messaging services. We are already seeing the tech industry switching away from email and phone calls to using modern messengers – so we can predict that other industries will follow in their wake.

To help this process we in Fleep are investing a lot of time and thought into preparing smooth transition scenarios, which will allow early adopters to engage Fleep and use it as both a new way to communicate and a means to continue to communicate with those still on email.

Henn Ruukel, CEO of Fleep (opens in new tab)

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Digital Storm