Sunday, March 20, 2011

Information broadcast with group messaging

Group messaging services allow groups to communicate in real time, through mobile apps or on the web. Multiple parties can interact, receive updates simultaneously, and possibly see the location of others and transmit their own.

Some of the big names in the space are beluga (acquired by Facebook in Nov 2010), convore, textPlus / GOGII ($15 million financing raised in February 2011), and groupme.

Group messaging is like many examples of NewTech - it was initially created to solve a problem, but through use, novel functionality becomes more obvious and new classes of applications are developed. In fact, it is starting to look like group messaging is not about communication, but rather multi-channel information broadcast.

One new class of functionality that is enabled is large-scale operations. Going beyond work groups and activity coordinating with friends, there is no reason that groups could not be arbitrarily large. An obvious recent use case is crisis management. Group messaging could be used for crisis alerts (for example, to issue the 80-second advance warning in the Japanese earthquake), and search and rescue. Another large-scale application is voting, or any kind of opinion-measurement. Presumably, group messaging could be a better version of the current real-time pulse of the web, Twitter. Twitter is operating at scale, recently reporting 36 million tweets during the 2011 Oscars, and more during the Grammys and Superbowl, but could benefit from the additional aggregation, stratification, and interaction functionality of group messaging.

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