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The Facebook Messenger story – a (perhaps dangerous) success

Similar Web released a study that reveals the most popular global messaging apps in the last couple of years. The study, as analyzed by express.co.uk, clearly captures the way Facebook Messenger superseded WhatsApp in 2017, compared to 2016. Granted, the current version of Messenger launched in April 2015. It went from 600 million users initially, to 9 00 million in June 2016, 1 billion in July 2016, and 1.2 billion in April 2017.

Just as a list, here you may see the Top Google Play apps in the Communication section, as listed by the same SimilarWeb. The top two positions are similar to the study quoted by the UK publication.

What is the dangerous part in Messenger’s success?

Going back to 2016, we may well remember how Facebook forced its users to download the Messenger app, separating Messenger from their network. The move qualified as “hostile” at the time – and the users were annoyed.

However, we are now looking at an app that beat the install-at-your-free-will WhatsApp – and what does this tell us? That a forceful move is ignor-able, if time and numbers vouch for a successful outcome.

The company, or any other company could replay the same technique in theory. The results d not seem to penalize the practice in any way.

What would the practice be described as? Well, splitting one product that has been validated by the market and ensuring a similar success of the secondary project – in a move that removes the users from the control board.

The peoples’ network – the capital of any communication app

The above example was possible due to the fact that Facebook made sure they have a most valuable capital, before making their move. The people that formed their social network already established connections and cared about them. Letting go was unlikely. Facebook capitalized on this reality, which is a customary practice with this brand.

Of course, taking into account that each move that the users dislike brings about a lot of comments about how Facebook does not consider the users’ wishes, the levels of discontent seem to raise. Somewhere along the line there should be a tipping point. Some wonder, others plainly hope for this to materialize – because this approach is, in fact, offensive.

Its value of precedent makes the entire issue even more important. Facebook has plans for free, ubiquitous Internet. Facebook – the social network, has the tagline “It’s free and always will be”. This is an important factor that attracted the huge numbers of users. The users that are now capital for one very important brand. The users that now have to ignore their pride and options at each questionable change made by the network. Because it’s free and because they still want to keep in touch with their peers.

Take this hidden price and shift it at the Internet’s level…

…and you get an arguable lack of freedom of choice. Just how much are you willing to give up because you want to be in the loop? Just how much is it worth giving up in exchange for freebies?

The big lurking issue beneath the free Internet is lack of net neutrality. You surely know the debate – fast and slow lane Internet, selected information, the bigger player gets to decide what goes on where.

The problem with this kind of fight is that it never happened. Without the influencers explaining the importance of keeping your freedom of choice, the general noise covered the incident. What never happened remains just a memory, if that. The mechanism was tested and it worked in favor of Facebook.

This proves the point that the leading-edge tech companies have the authority, build upon years of customer relationships and upon free features that dazzle the public, of imposing their point of view over the better reason or over the preferences of their audience.

Is this an idea we are comfortable with?

Unsettling future perspectives

Some acknowledge that we are not there yet, but we might be heading straight into a society of uniformity. Uniformity would not exclude variety – just think of how automation segments users into categories. You wisely keep categories, yet you feed the same message to one and all – to each in its personalized, suitable manner.

Such an image surely describes a simplified way of getting things through, but it definitely does not describe modern, educated communication. Communication as we’ve grown to understand it, means getting things back and forth, perhaps disagreeing, confronting opposite ideas. The winner is not pre-decided in real communication. If it would be, then why bother with just the show?

Or are we there yet, and we just expect the show? Perhaps Facebook just put the Messenger move too bluntly, while other brands still go through the slow-dance steps of announcing, testing, taking feedback into consideration – and finally going through with the initial decision, regardless of what users want. This way, they have something to show in the line of “at least making an effort”.

 

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All or nothing in ISP blocking – here’s why (and here’s AI)

A recent online report shows that the Chinese internet service providers caused intermittent service on the WhatsApp platform. This is just one of the many disruptions experienced by WhatsApp, due to censorship.

This incident leads to the old discussion of “should the ISPs be allowed to block certain websites, platforms or apps, or not?” The blocking reasons may vary, and the risk of encouraging censorship in some regions of the world is just one thing to consider.

ISP blocking, not a generic matter

Generic blocking would represent the “all” version of solving the matter. Yet it is only logical that ISP blocking cannot be allowed in a generic manner, then shifting the power of decision to each provider.

Deciding to block certain websites or platform happened so far as a result of specific court orders. For example, in the UK, the EPL won a High Court Order following which the UK ISPs were required to block certain servers that hosted illegal streams of EPL football matches. This means ISP blocking can be enforced, but a proactive action must be taken by those who are harmed, and the reasons are to be validated by a Court.

In theory, this protects all the websites or platforms that could be unreasonably blocked, if the courtroom stage were not required. However, in a biased governing regime, the legal system would be most likely biased, too. Therefore, providing legal means of ISP blocking may return unexpected results when legal does not equal democracy.

In the UK it has also been proven that ISPs block VPNs by default , which is another way of “censoring” the Internet. No Court Order here, just a legislative promise turned reality, according to the source article.

The not so global Internet

  • When “nothing” is not quite what it seems

When looking at the three examples from the above, we may easily wonder whether our posts or apps reach the big world out there, or not. Well, assuming we are not tackling any problematic issues that might get censored in some country or another, the posts should reach absolutely everyone interested, regardless of their location. At least in theory.

The apps are however another category, as WhatsApp’s case proves. Enabling fast-paced, real-time communications between people might not be to everyone’s taste. The more efficient such apps are, the less likely they are seen as suited by oppressive regimes. Some might even be marked as dangerous by non-oppressive systems, due to the fact that in the wrong hands, they serve dangerous purposes. In that aspect, the matter meets the iPhone encryption dispute.

Wait, what are we doing? Penalizing the best apps because their efficiency might be used for malicious purposes? Ironically, sometimes this might be the case.

A point where AI’s contribution would be strategic

Stepping back a little, the problem could be summarized like this: modern technology brought along modern peoples’ rights. The way they are currently handled is not standardized, therefore it varies from region to region. How can malicious actions be stopped, without inducing an oppressive approach for all that Internet access means?

Monitoring Internet traffic with the help of Artificial Intelligence is one way to go. It is not a thing of the future, either. Only that AI progresses and learns, and the more developed it is, the more effective its presence. Sifting through the big data bulks of the Internet traffic to point out only the real risks is not easy to accomplish. Too many false alerts and the system is not credible, while missing the true risk points makes it unreliable.

Meanwhile, Internet neutrality advocates try to keep the status quo. Maintaining the current liberties could prove difficult, could prove risky from some angles, but it is important and it’s part of who we are, or of who we want to be as a modern society.

Canvy Team, apps, communications, WhatsApp, Snapchat, file sharing

When apps redefine communications – Canvy Team latest news recap

Although the modern communications market is still fragmented, the main communication channels and apps “own” certain features. Meaning that, even if successful features tend to spread via imitation or innovative answers within different apps, the audience tends to keep associating them with the brands that introduced or perfected them.

Some may wonder what else is new in digital communications. Well, the main established players in this market have found out once again that it’s the details that matter. Intuitive UI, friendly logos, tiny features that hold the potential of great impact may all be essential at the end of the day, as seasoning is for a great dish.

 

A successful app now allows sending any type of file

Loyal users everywhere are thrilled – and for a good reason. WhatsApp experiments these days with a feature that allows users to send other files than photos. The accepted files may be as large as 128 MB for iOS, 100 MB for Android and 64 MB for a Web client.

This new feature illustrates the way modern communications widen their range – why go out of the app, in order to send specific files via a different channel?

Well, the question above is not just rhetorical. We already have some critical voices that warn of the potential risks in this new WhatsApp capability. Some files may be malicious, or may carry items that in fact are not legally share-able. In other words, it seems that the difficulty of file-sharing in our day and age is not random. There are important cyber-security considerations involved, as well as legal considerations.

But why spoil the WhatsApp experiment by contemplating the difficulties involved? Most likely, if this feature proves successful, the company will mitigate the risks.

 

Tracking people on the map – a superpower of yet another communication app

No need to hold your breath or start guessing – we are talking about Snapchat. The instant fun, amazingly simple app now allows friends to see each other’s location. This new tool is bound to change the rules of the game a bit – since it basically introduces a tracking feature. See here more on this topic.

As we may see by looking at the bigger picture, both of these recent pieces of news illustrate how the communications apps compete for the fragmented market we mentioned above. Yet the more attractive these new features are, the riskier they might be – in turn.

What is your opinion on this attractiveness vs. privacy topic? Did you have any incidents involving modern communications risks? Are you concerned about the implications of sharing sensitive files via certain communications channels or not?

Let’s remember…

…how there is an intended line between work/office communications and private messaging. Yet the obsolete look and features of some work-destined communication channels results in employees doubling the way they communicate among themselves by employing the mainstream, private-targeted apps. Therefore, the idea that your staff is using more secure channels in order to communicate work-related details might just prove a utopia. These tools are all efficiency-dependent. When they fail to meet the users’ expectancy in terms of speed, responsiveness and friendliness, they end up being rapidly replaced by the next app in line.

Finally, although it may sound like an old Hallmark card, modern communications, in fact, are all about sharing and receiving. Without letting some of your digital persona be seen, these virtual communities would be an extremely boring place. The communications landscape is made out of the few from the many, combined with the more from its “stars” – people who enjoy the spotlight and have found the answer to their dreams in the way modern people communicate – text, photos, file-sharing and all.