The Madness of King Zuck – a Messaging Mess

Written by on April 11, 2013 in BillingViews, Opinion with 0 Comments

Common sense has left the building. Again. Just when telcos are coming to terms with the fact that charging for SMS is becoming a thing of the past, Facebook decides to charge for, er, sending messages. Their latest announcements include plans to charge £10 to guarantee to deliver a message to a celebrity and £1 to deliver a message to someone who is not in your immediate friends’ network.

Unless I am now terminally old then the first idea is flawed because I, as a celebrity (I am being hypothetical) would pay £11 not to have messages from strangers ‘delivered’ to me. Celebrities use platforms such as Twitter for a reason. They can stay in touch with their fans while completely ignoring their responses – without offending anyone. If I, as a fan (I am being hypothetical) wanted to spend £10 to send a message to a celebrity and did not get a response, I would want my money back.

Simply managing the dispute process will cost about £12 per message, so it does not add up. At all. Does it?

The second idea is flawed because Facebook, as I understand it, was set up as a social network whereby you can connect with and see everything about, well, anyone, who wants you to. Now I have to pay £1 to send a message to someone who does not want to be my friend. That does not add up either.

Setting aside the obvious and well trodden, smirky theme of Facebook’s increasing discomfort in its move from social to commercial network and its slide from cool to uncool platform, there is a wider issue.

Messaging, spam. And big, big brands.

Facebook (or is it Google) is rumoured to be about to buy WhatsApp for £1 billion. Everyone denies this of course, and it is, in any case, hard to figure out why Facebook would want WhatsApp. Or indeed want to try to make money out of messaging when the smart money is using it as the oil for better contact and longer relationships with customers.

Is it, I wonder, a reaction based in fear? Big brands such as Coca Cola are realizing that the mobile device itself (now known as the ‘first screen’), and access to it via the mobile network is the most valuable connection they can make. The start, they realize, of an on-going, trust-based relationship in which they are prepared to invest many millions. Facebook cannot deliver that. It is called spam.

Could it be that platforms such as Facebook are losing their cosy yet cool community feel and they now look like an explosion in a cake factory?

Could it be that Facebook is increasingly desperate to make money out of a network that was never designed to be commercial?

If Facebook launches any and all of these messaging ‘services’ I really think that they will struggle with the micro-payment/dispute resolution issues, let alone any of the bigger ones. It also opens the door for telcos to make the most of the new messaging opportunity – I would recommend an early meeting with some big brands.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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