It wouldn’t take an Albert Einstein to confirm that 2014 was a defining year for Instant Messengers. Here are a few key events, which happened in the world of Instant Messengers in 2014:
Jan 3, 2014: eBuddy decides to shut shop

Feb 14, 2014: Rakuten acquires Viber for $900 Million

Feb 19, 2014: Facebook buys Whatsapp for $19 Billion

Mar 25, 2014: KakaoTalk merges with Daum to fight Naver’s Line Messenger. Tencent also invests $63 Million in KakaoTalk

Sept 23, 2014: Line Messenger shelves IPO plans (valued at more than $9 Billion)

Oct 27, 2014: New Call Telecom acquires 70% stake in Nimbuzz at $250 Million valuation

Oct 31, 2014: End of MSN (the 4th instant messenger after ICQ, AOL & Yahoo). Those who migrate to Skype get $2 credit.

Nov 19 2014: Kik Messenger gets $38.3 Million funding

Dec 19, 2014: Samsung decides to shut down its messaging service ChatOn by Feb 2015

What 2010 was to social networks, 2014 was to instant messengers

In 2010 everybody got used to the idea that the world needs ONLY one generic social network BUT there was room for many niche networks. This is why 2010 saw the emergence and success of niche networks such as Instagram, Pinterest & Path. Not to mention Linkedin & Twitter, which had taken off much earlier.

Similarly 2014 was the year everybody understood that instant messaging wasn’t going to be a case of winner takes all – it won’t be Whatsapp all along. In spite of Whatsapp’s brilliant streak, players such as Skype, Viber, WeChat, Nimbuzz, Tango, Kik Messenger, KakaoTalk, Snapchat, Line Messenger, Oovoo, Telegram etc will continue to flourish – after identifying their area of focus. This focus could be functional such as in Snapchat’s case or geographical such as in the case of KakaoTalk.

Unlike generic social networking, when it comes to messaging I don’t just use one service. For instance, in a typical month I end up using Nimbuzz, Skype, Viber, Telegram and Facebook Messenger because my friends are distributed all over. There is room for all to flourish.

Now that their utility has been established, let me detail what I expect these instant messengers to be focusing on in 2015:

Identify or improve their ‘niche’

Instant Messengers facilitate one-2-one, one-2-some and one-2-many conversations via text, audio and video and whenever possible enhance it further by giving conversing people something exciting to do. Thus, the differentiation for every instant messenger has to lie within the purview of facilitating & enhancing conversations.

Most instant messengers have identified their niche and are going after the market share. Oovoo for example has decided to focus on video conferencing, Viber has decided to focus on free calling, Telegram messenger has decided to focus on security (encryption), and KakaoTalk is focusing on gaming among friends.

Create properties & turnkey solutions

Whenever there is a new technology/platform, users in the age group of 18-40 adopt it first – this is what first happened on Facebook and is now true for instant messaging too. Luckily, this is exactly the set of eyeball everybody wants to attract. By everybody I mean:

1) The Celebrities (who are now on Twitter & Facebook)

2) The Content Creators (who are now blogging, are on Twitter or have Youtube channels)

3) The Media Houses (who now have Youtube channels)

4) The Brands (who are now on TV, print, radio, Facebook, Twitter etc.)

Barring Whatsapp, which has never tried to flirt with the above four types of digital entities all other messengers have tried them in various measure. For example, Viber has 50+ celebrities in India whom you can follow, Line Messenger has numerous branded stickers in their stickers store and Nimbuzz has run Ads for almost all top brands of the world.

As of today most of these instant messengers don’t have turnkey solutions (also known as scalable, ready to use solutions/platforms) that can keep these four entities happy. They are being built slowly but steadily.

The Bottom line

Communication is such a basic need that nobody has ever managed to monetize it with high profit margins – to monetize with high profit margins one needs turnkey solutions. Year 2015 will be about creating these properties & turnkey solutions for celebs, content creators, brands and media houses.

Does this watershed year in instant messaging mean the best is over and we will now be going down the Trough of Disillusionment? No…as a Brit would have said, ‘that is absolute bollocks!”

Instant messaging still has a long way to go before it reaches what people call full expectation and thanks to the Network Effects these instant messengers have created for themselves, nobody can dislodge them for at least 2-3 years.

Disclaimer: I am Chief Product Officer of Nimbuzz, an instant messenger with more than 200 million users. The thoughts expressed in this piece are my very own.