Keeping in touch has never been so easy.
It seems a long time ago that telephones were used exclusively for verbal communication. The advent of mobile internet access has transformed the way people speak to one another, with text-based conversations now our preferred method of communication while on the move. Building on the immense popularity of text messages, today’s chat networks have added attachments and emoji to the predictive text and ubiquitous abbreviations established throughout the 1990s.
Amid a crowded marketplace, below are five of the best platforms for chatting – on both a personal or professional level:
For friends: Facebook Messenger. Monthly active users: 900 million.
Although it isn’t the largest chat network, Facebook Messenger has the unique advantage that most people you know are probably already on it. The desktop interface can be unintuitive (pressing Enter sends a message, rather than starting a new paragraph), but the mobile app is simplicity itself. Attempts to extend FM’s appeal to corporate audiences through the Business on Messenger platform have also been widely adopted among media and startup companies.
For groups: WhatsApp. Monthly active users: 1 billion.
The undisputed market leader in the text chat industry, WhatsApp’s telephone-in-a-speech-bubble notification is familiar to most smartphone users. Being able to track whether a message has been received and read is a useful feature, and the simplicity with which attachments can be sent is a blessing for less tech-savvy users. BlackBerry users should note that WhatsApp will cease support for their platform by the end of 2016.
For business: Slack. Monthly active users: 81 million.
While Slack’s number of active users is lower than other social networks, it’s been reported that the average Slack user spends ten hours per week logged in. That’s not surprising when you consider Slack’s mission: to provide a single point of contact for a project’s documentation, communications and development. Also, offering to contact someone through Slack appears more professional than doing so through Twitter or Facebook Messenger.
For young audiences: Snapchat. Monthly active users: 220 million.
Snapchat’s big drawback from a corporate perspective is that messages disappear soon after being read. However, that’s also one of its perceived advantages among the teenagers who dominate this youth-oriented social media platform. Snapchat has become wildly popular thanks to its scope for personalising messages, with the ability to create 24-hour stories or customise photos/videos with captions, hand-drawn doodles, and plenty more besides.
Best for gaming: Palringo. Monthly active users: 40 million.
Although the concept of chat-based gaming may seem alien to generations more used to arcade machines and games consoles, London-based Palringo is one of the UK’s fastest-growing technology firms. Games can be played among two thousand people, with scope to share images and voice messages among groups or specific individuals. Chat-based gameplay also encourages collaboration and new friendships within the Palringo community.