Clash of the messaging titans: Facebook vs. RCS

John Lauer real world messaging

Last week at MoNage 2017, Zipwhip CEO John Lauer sat on a panel called “Real World Messaging Experiences,” hosted by Verizon’s VP of Public Policy Nneka Chiazor (read her recap here.) Lauer was on stage with Todd Parker, Head of Business Development at Google, and Oisin “Mr. Empathy” Lunny from OpenMarket.

Chiazor didn’t go easy on Lauer, but he stood his ground. Here are some of the highlights.

NC: Today, we’re talking about Rich Communication Service (RCS). Talk to us about RCS and why it is or is not Facebook Messenger.

JL: I consider RCS to just be the next evolution of SMS. They’re both under the umbrella of text messaging.

Things like RCS are equivalent to – imagine if this happened in Silicon Valley – Apple merging iMessage with Facebook Messenger and then Google Hangouts and Allo merging together in a single platform. It would take off and become a huge standard. We all know that’s never going to happen in Silicon Valley, but it is happening with RCS.

“TechCrunch isn’t writing sexy articles about RCS, yet it’s where all the dollars are at.”

I’ve heard a lot of people focused on Facebook Messenger, and my advice to you is seriously consider if it’s going to matter in a few years… or if it even matters today. Because yes, there’s people on Facebook; yes, there’s been this forced use of Facebook Messenger, but there aren’t really the numbers there like you see in the world of text messaging.
The problem with text messaging is that TechCrunch isn’t writing sexy articles about it. TechCrunch isn’t even writing articles about RCS, yet it’s where all the action is at. And, it’s where all the dollars are at. There are more companies that have made billions of dollars in the open ecosystem of SMS and text messaging than anybody’s made in the closed ecosystems of things like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Alec Lararescu tweets a picture of monage panel

MoNage attendees tweeted about Lauer’s statements.

NC: I’d like to challenge you on that. I looked at the Neilson studies for 2016 and the top three apps were Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Youtube. Facebook Messenger currently has 1 billion users monthly, and 30% of all global internet usage is on Facebook Messenger. So with those significant stats, are we sure Facebook isn’t the dominant player here?

JL: OK, so, the native texting app doesn’t show up in the app store, thus it doesn’t show up in those stats. The native texting app is used way more than anything in the app store. It doesn’t show up in the stats but it’s the most-used app on the phone.

I find this so funny. Go play with the Dominoes Pizza chatbot on Facebook Messenger. The first question it asks is ‘Do you want delivery or take out?’ The second question is: ‘What’s your phone number?’ Are you kidding me? You’re in an app-based messaging environment, and it’s asking you to GTHO of that app so it can use a real messaging platform like text messaging or maybe even voice calls.
The voice call app and the texting app are native apps – they’re not in the app store so you don’t see metrics, but they are the two-apps that come pre-logged in the moment you walk out of the store. Having to log into other apps creates friction, and any time there’s friction in the consumer space, things fall off of a cliff.

“[Facebook Messenger] asks, ‘What’s your phone number?’ Are you kidding me? You’re in an app-based messaging environment, and it’s asking you to GTHO off that app so it can use a real messaging platform like text messaging.”

I love Facebook like anybody else — but when you talk about things that are native to the phone, things like the phone number, it’s just what everybody ends up using. RCS is going to be this natural progression. You’re not even going to realize you’re using it, just like you didn’t realize you were using iMessage. T-Mobile has 22 million RCS-capable handsets today. Nobody is writing about it because it’s not sexy, but it’s the truth.

NC: I think you’re raising some really good points. I do think Silicon Valley has overlooked some of the technology that has been rooted in telecom, like SMS, toll free, etc. One of the things I would like to touch on, though, is earlier today someone from Facebook talked about how millennials eat, sleep, and dream on Facebook… so if you’re in that type of environment, what would motivate you to leave?

JL: Truly, following that logic we should all be using AOL Instant Messenger today. They reached critical mass, they dominated the market, there’s no reason they should have ever disappeared. And what is the AOL Instant Messenger of today? It’s all these new waves of apps.

A lot of these apps act like fashion. Bell bottoms got really huge and sort of disappeared, skinny jeans got really huge and sort of disappeared. We have fashion in the technology space, then we have utility, like water, electricity, and breathing oxygen. Apps are fashionable, sexy, and fun in the moment, but they get disrupted. Amazon Alexa is the most disruptive voice operating system right now. Are they going to embrace Facebook Messenger or are they going to embrace SMS and RCS? Make the prediction and start to consider where you’re placing your bets.

NC: So for anyone looking to make a big play in this market, what would you say to them?

JL: Go where the revenue is.

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