I previously wrote about what I think is required for a successful mobile product. With all of the activity in the social messaging/communications/networking category (Whisper, Confide, Secret and Wut being the latest buzzed about apps), I thought I’d dig into one of the key points I made, which I believe is even more true in this category. It’s not good enough to be better, you have to be different ─ in a way that helps address an entirely different use or possibly a similar use case dramatically differently.
In the case of messaging, it’s not enough to innovate along an existing dimension. You need to create an entirely new product dimension. It’s clear when you look at the breakout messaging apps that they clearly did something different relative to the apps that came before them, and in most cases that helped those apps address different user needs. Facebook popularized status updates within a private network. Twitter made status updates public (changing who sees the update). Instagram made status updates visual (changing the format of the update). WhatsApp made status updates (via SMS) free. Snapchat made status updates ephemeral (changing the permanence of updates). And what of the apps that were hyped and have seemingly gone away? What new dimensions did Path, Frontback and MessageMe introduce?
Of the “hot” new apps, it remains to be seen which will pass the test of time. Whisper makes public status updates anonymous (changing who sent the update). Confide has made text status updates private and ephemeral. Secret has made the anonymous status update visible only to a semi-private group. Wut has anonymous, private and ephemeral status updates(?). Are any of these apps introducing new dimensions that address different use cases or needs? Fortunately, or possibly unfortunately, social messaging companies doesn’t typically fit our Bottom Up Economy thesis. So we don’t have to bet which of these products will become the next Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But if I had to bet, I’d pick the one that does the most different thing best. Because better just isn’t good enough when launching a product.