Facebook is killing text messaging

Summary:Facebook is slowly but surely killing the text message. As a result, the social networking giant is eating into the traffic carriers receive from text messaging, and thus a huge chunk of their revenues.

We've heard many times and from multiple sources that text messaging is declining. There are multiple reasons for this (BlackBerry Messenger, Apple's iMessage, and even WhatsApp), but the biggest one is Facebook (Messenger).

In the last year alone, SMS usage has not only continued to slow, but it has seen a significant drop. So, what happened last year that could have caused this? In August 2011, Facebook Messenger was released for Android, iPhone. In October 2011, it got a significant upgrade, and the BlackBerry version arrived on the scene.

I've mentioned many times that Facebook Messenger has a huge chance of becoming the most popular way to communicate in text form, especially given that in March 2012 it was also released for Windows. Facebook has confirmed a Mac version is coming, and screenshots of an iPad version leaked earlier this month.

Carriers must be very worried about these developments. Messaging services, especially Facebook's, are eating into their text messaging traffic, and thus a huge chunk of their revenue, according to telecommunications consulting firm Strand Consult:

In other words the operators have yet to find a new cash cow that comes anywhere close to their SMS cash cow and now many operators are seeing an increasing number of customers moving their SMS traffic over to Facebook, resulting in their SMS cash cow getting thinner and thinner. In countries like Denmark and Norway this trend is very visible, as an increasing number of customers are reducing their daily SMS traffic because they are moving their communication over to Facebook chat or Instant Messenger. … The biggest difference between Facebook and Google is that Facebook is a communication tool that people use to keep in touch with their family and friends every day. In many ways one can compare Facebook's development in the mobile industry to how the Internet affected the media industry. Market players like Google, Skype, Twitter and MSN are only marginally important to the mobile industry compared to Facebook.

Once you have data, you can use hundreds of free messaging tools, rendering SMS next to useless, especially if you have to pay for it separately. In fact, I think Facebook would completely destroy text messaging if carriers in many countries didn't bundle text messaging into all their plans. I would love to remove texting functionality from my phone and pay less.

Facebook Messenger is the best alternative for three massive reasons: most of your friends already have it (or they at least have Facebook – remember the service has over 901 million monthly active users), it's cross-platform (again, not just mobile), and it is regularly getting significant upgrades (video calling is coming this summer).

Texting isn't going away anytime soon, especially given that carriers make so much revenue from it. Nevertheless, texting is so limited that alternatives have been quickly embraced. As a BlackBerry user and former RIM employee, I love BlackBerry Messenger and all the features it offers. When Facebook Messenger 1.7 came out, however, I called it a BBM killer.

I still use text messages to communicate with friends directly. I also send Facebook messages to individuals when I don't have their number for whatever reason (they lost it, they changed it, and so on).

Even more frequently, I find myself using Facebook Groups, Facebook Events, and a single Facebook or BBM message for communicating with multiple friends. It's just easier than sending a text message to everyone. I believe I would send even more Facebook messages over texts if Facebook was better integrated with my BlackBerry. No wonder the Facebook phone rumor just won't die.

See also:

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Mobility, Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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