Yahoo Messenger, a mainstay on the messaging scene since its launch in 1998, is discontinuing its services. The second in a succession of pioneering Instant Messenger (IM) programs closing their doors (AOL Instant Messenger shut down in December of last year), Yahoo Messenger will shut down as of July 17th of this year. While two events aren’t necessarily a trend, it’s beginning to look like there will continue to be major shakeups in the IM market in the near future.
This momentous occasion, when one of the original trendsetters on the IM scene is shutting down, is an opportune time to reflect on where the IM field is going in the long term through Yahoo Messenger’s story. Every major change to the IM market such as this has wider implications than simply a program shutting down after 20 years of operations, and it’s important to analyze how Yahoo Messenger arrived at this moment.
Of course apart from the larger lessons learned there is a more immediate implication to Yahoo Messenger’s closure, namely where do its numerous current users turn to for their communication needs?
A Strong Start
Yahoo Messenger entered the market to much fanfare in 1998 as Yahoo! Pager, and has subsequently gone through many iterations. Yahoo Messenger was one of the first IM programs to offer customizable features such as musical notification tones and customized messaging windows, demonstrating a strong spirit of innovation in the beginning. Unfortunately this spirit did not continue to thrive in subsequent years, and coupled with a reduction of platforms and services in recent years, Yahoo Messenger soon found many of its users migrating to more attractive IM options.
The Current and Future IM Market
Yahoo Messenger, much like AOL Instant Messenger, struggled to maintain its user base in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp. A pivot to focusing on mobile devices brought some early success, but was ultimately too little too late. Yahoo Messenger has also shut down several of its features and services (including the highly popular commodity traders’ platform). These numerous shifts in focus and retirement of versions and features meant that Yahoo Messenger never found its specific niche, a lesson that its competitors are certainly taking into account.
Perhaps the other lesson from Yahoo Messenger’s story is that in the field of IM, companies must find the right balance between experimentation and focusing on their unique features. Trying to do everything at once and constantly pivoting can lead to confusion among users and encourage them to move to programs offering a more stable experience. While this was the case for Yahoo Messenger which saw a reduction in user in recent years, the program continues to have a large number of dedicated users who will now need to choose an alternative program for their messaging needs.
No Immediate Successor
Along with the announcement that Yahoo Messenger is discontinuing its services, Yahoo informed its users that there is no current replacement product, although one is in the early experimentation phase. This leaves Yahoo users at a decision point as to where they turn for their next IM program. While there is no exact replacement, there are multiple options ranging from those similar to Yahoo Messenger in terms of interface and features, to those with an expanded features list and broader scope.
Below are 4 potential alternatives for Yahoo Messengers to choose from, each with its own unique features and user experience.
One of the most popular messaging programs on the market, WhatsApp currently has over 1 bllion users around the world. Mush of WhatsApp’s success comes from its strong focus on mobile messaging. WhatsApp requires users to provide a relevant mobile phone number, and is still strongest on mobile platforms, meaning that this is a good option for Yahoo Messenger users who are looking for a mobile messaging alternative.
An instant messenger with a focus on users’ data security, Brosix Instant Messenger provides both freeware and team IM communication solutions. Brosix offers a free personal version similar in feel to Yahoo Messenger, and enterprise versions for businesses’ internal communication. Much of Brosix’s focus is on its enterprise version, making it a strong choice for those who have relied on Yahoo Messenger for internal team communication.
Telegram is a cloud based IM and voice over IP program with a strong privacy focus. Telegram allows users to have secure voice and text chats, as well as securely transfer files (although there is a size limit). Telegram requires a mobile number for verification, making it another good option for users looking for a secure mobile messaging program.
Yahoo Messenger’s closure is an important moment in the history of IM, one that can provide some insights in where the field is heading. While market watchers will certainly all have their own take on the issue, one thing is certain- in order to maintain relevance in the field of IM, businesses need to learn how to adapt their products to users’ needs and desires while not sacrificing their unique features.
Apart from its lessons for other IM businesses, Yahoo Messenger’s closure will also present thousands of current users with a choice as to which alternative program they bring their business. Luckily there are multiple strong options, meaning that the issue at hand is more choosing one that best fits their needs.