Skype just announced proudly that its users spend 2 billion minutes a day on Skype calls. It’s a big achievement, for sure… but considering how long Skype has been around, it’s also somewhat underwhelming. According to company comments from 2011, the average video call length was 27 minutes. If we estimate that the average Skype call including both voice and video calling is closer to 20 minutes, the 2 billion minutes a day figure would translate roughly to 100 million calls per day. This sounds decent enough — except that a cluster of mobile messaging app companies that debuted just a couple of years ago have already moved far beyond that level.
This past January, WhatsApp announced that it is processing 18 billion messages a day, with 11 billion of those being outbound messages.
The date of that announcement was artfully chosen, since WhatsApp elected to measure New Year’s peak traffic instead of an average day. Nevertheless, topping 10 billion transactions per day stands in stark contrast with 100 million transactions per day. After all, the opportunity to offer a marketing message of some sort only exists at the beginning and the end of a Skype call; it’s not like you can intrude in the middle to hawk Palm Springs condos.
Other messaging apps such as Kakao Talk and Line have also amassed big customer bases in certain markets. There is currently something of a race between these companies in leveraging the messaging volumes to offer social games.
Right now it looks like messaging services may turn out to have a larger role in consumers’ lives than voice services, which is something very few people realized 10 years ago when VoIP was thought to be the ultimate communication tool of the future. A hundred years ago, the telephone was the futuristic gadget that destroyed the relevance of telegraph messages. It seems that consumers are executing a neat reversal and returning short snippets of text to the primacy they enjoyed in the late Nineteenth Century.