I Chat with WeChat

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Colin here.

I have finally broken down and become an avid WeChat user.

What, you never heard of WeChat? My understanding is that it is the most popular text/chat service in the world. It has hundreds of millions of subscribers. Well most of them are in Asia, it’s increasing in popularity in the United States and western countries.

Our company has been steadily seeing a decline a voice minutes on our wireless and wireline phone systems. We’re seeing a steep drop a voicemail message is being left. And now, we’re starting to see another trend: the number of email messages is declining. The decline in email messages is very slight, and we analyzed in a bit.

What we are seeing is that the number of very short emails and replies is dropping. Email is still being used for the big, long, formal communications.

I have an unfounded fear he of what’s happening: text chat is eating all of Unified Communications. It’s swallowing them whole. I believe that short communications is transitioning from email and phone calls to text chats.

Actually, I’m probably a bit old-fashioned calling them text chats. Most of what I seem to be seeing are short little snippets much like the old Nextel walkie-talkie feature. People are holding dozens of walkie-talkie-like conversations concurrently.

I’m hard-pressed to find anybody in Asia anymore who is not on WeChat. It’s used for sending text, voice, pictures, and now even for audio and video phone calls. Yes, I think this means it’s the new Unified Communications.

It’s too early for anybody to declare that this is definitively what’s happening. But I’ve never seen a service take off quite so widely and be used in business so much so quickly. We negotiate contracts through it, we send pictures of expense reports through it, we do all the stuff we used to do in an email through it.

I guess this makes sense. Rather than spending five or 15 minutes on a phone call with somebody our life is so chopped up that we will communicate with 25 or 30 people all throughout the day. We do it was short messages, ideas, questions, problems, answers. And the chatting service like WeChat meets this need better than any other communications forum.

I remember when Apple announced that they were adding voice messaging to their iMessage capability on the iPhone. People in the audience actually groaned and a number of blog writers questioned why Apple would introduce such a silly feature. Clearly, this US – centric blocking/reporting community was out of touch with how communications were happening between the majority of the people on earth.

No, I don’t think that this is something unique to Asian languages are Asian culture. I think this is a case where a just simply has not been bounded by the historical grounding of voicemail and email.in a lot of ways, Asia is more progressive than Western countries and adopting new technologies.

So I’m going to stick my neck out a little bit here and predict that the new Unified Communications looks like WeChat and other chatting services. That is: they’re going to make communicating in short, choppy, much more interactive conversations the norm. Low overhead to send a short message, low overhead to switch between parties.

We’ll see, but that’s where I think I see things going.

Colin Berkshire