Perhaps a bit early to make such a big claim but it could be all change in the instant messaging market.
I know plenty of people who use instant messaging: Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) being the app of choice. But I do know one person who has never been convinced: me.
I used MSN Messenger a fair bit when I started university but I only used it to speak to 7 people tops. I’ve since switched to making phone calls.
But there have been two recent announcements that could change that.
- Microsoft announcing the launch of Invite2Messenger, a simple website that allows people to add Facebook contacts (more contact lists will be added in the future) and invite them to use Windows Live Messenger. Based on 2006 figures (the most recent I could find), Windows Live/MSN Messenger (WLM) has a 61% market share. I would expect this to increase slightly but more importantly it will connect people who aren’t aware that their Facebook friends are available on IM, sending more web traffic to Microsoft.
- Just 11 days after I read about Microsoft’s announcement, Facebook countered with Facebook Chat. This will integrate an IM client into the web browser and allow people to start conversations without launching a separate app: a big speed advantage. But although officially announced on the Facebook Blog, it’s not yet available.
It’s difficult to decide who has the upper hand.
The Facebook app has clear advantages: it’s one less application that people need, assuming of course that they don’t already use WLM, AIM, Yahoo Messenger or another IM app: and Yahoo Messenger and WLM users can already add friends who use the other app. Google Talk requires a Google account, something people probably won’t have unless they use Gmail: and how many people want to send instant messages when they are trying to send emails? I remain unconvinced.
But Microsoft already has more than half of the IM market and will certainly gain new users: perhaps not many but enough to make a difference and while I doubt many people will switch from one IM client to another, if people are invited to use WLM it’s unlikely they will shop around to look at the alternatives. And, in the short term at least, WLM is available to use in minutes, whereas Facebook Chat is still to launch.
So what’s the likely outcome? It’s difficult to predict: Facebook isn’t used by everyone, far from it. I’d expect it to make a difference but I think most people will stick with what they know.
As for me: well I have just 11 contacts on WLM and all of them have Facebook accounts. I also dislike the huge amount of advertising on WLM, which I can’t completely block and isn’t even for things I’d spend money on: I can easily block all adverts when web browsing.
I think the choice, for me at least, is pretty obvious…