Messaging, not email

Coming out of our ‘smtp is dead, long live smtp’ brainstorming session I am thinking that we need to be talking about messaging, not email.

Email is a subset of a much larger messaging market. What we’ve seen over the past 10 years is that internet messaging (primarily text but let’s not make that distinction) has evolved from predominantly email to a host of other systems;

Instant Messaging
Blogging (each post is a message)
Skyping (text+voice)
Voice Mail Transcription (voice to text)
Twittering/FB status update
Web mail
Web site messaging (FB messages)
Comments on social media
Social gestures (actions in the news feed)
Text messaging (sms)

Its protocol soup. smtp, rss, http, udp, http, sms and stuff beyond that which is also beyond me. The protocol matters in terms of how the messaging system works but at the level of the end user, its immaterial.

Messaging is messaging and we all do it in different ways. But the massive evolution of messaging services is creating a big opportunity to rationalize it.

None of the peopele who attended our little messaging session thinks that unified messaging is the answer. But open messaging platforms and new messaging interfaces which can sit on top of those open platforms is.

So I’d like to see every messaging system that I mentioned and all the ones I left out of my list open up their systems via APIs or other techniques and let new platforms/interfaces sit on top of them.

Next up – how the social graph fits into all of this.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. charlie crystle

    Right–it should be seamless. When I send a message to you, it should just work–it should just get to you.But it should also stay with me. When I post to your blog, I have no organized archive of it (Sent Messages), and when I leave a voicemail, only you can put it against a video backdrop and mock me on Youtube. (note–I’ve never left a message for Fred, and I doubt he’d ever do something like that. But if he ever leaves a message for me…)So unified messaging isn’t just about pushing messages out, it’s about receiving them and managing the content regardless of medium or transport.But organizing and storing communications isn’t useful for everyone, and isn’t valuable for all conversations.

  2. Scott Johnson

    The beauty of RSS is that it is, at it’s core, the open API you wish for. So my money is on RSS as the delivery vehicle of choice for all incoming information. Which makes MySpace, Facebook, My Yahoo, MS Outlook, etc. will be nothing but an RSS reader with a filter in front. The best interface and filter will be a many billion dollar winner.

    1. charlie crystle


    2. bernard lunn

      I agree – RSS

  3. trush

    Totally agree. There’s a lot of room for innovation in the what and where.The “what” being what can be done with messaging. If we take email, some people think of it solely as electronic version of regular mail (how it’s used by many) , others use it to post content (think tumbr postings or drops), and there’s lots more that can be done here.The “where” being where it goes. To an end user’s email client, to a reader, a chat window, a phone, etc. Better, smarter, open clients that allow users to easily organize, consume, and push out information are the play. They just need to sit on top of these messaging technologies.The point is that messaging needs to get where you want it and the people on the other end need an efficient way do more with it.

  4. Doug

    This is right on target. The reality is that, for most people, the technology isn’t the key. What’s important to them is that they can get the messages/info they want quickly and easily, no matter what device they have. i should be able to get X on my mobile phone, Y on my desktop, Z in my email and via RSS, not be forced into one method or the other. As Charlie said, it should be seamless.Our company (clearTXT) takes this approach for communication in the education space – deliver information to students, teachers, staff, parents, etc…via mobile phone, email, rss, and desktop. What’s interesting is how often people are confused by this. When people hear that one of the ways we deliver messages is via sms, they say, “oh, you’re a text messaging company” – which of course we’re not (much like I wouldn’t say Twitter is an SMS company). Rather than seeing the big picture (which is it’s all about communication and getting your messages all sorts of different ways – whatever way you want) they want to use one delivery method as the classification for an entire communication system.In the end, whatever you can do to make it easier for people to get their “messages” and their information, is a step in the right direction. I want my “messages”, not necessarily my “emails”.

  5. kenjimori

    Curious to know what is NOT messeging in the digital space in this context?

    1. fredwilson

      Not much it seems

  6. Tom Evslin

    fascinating discussion. Thanks for hosting it.I’d answer kenjimori that visits to websites which don’t let you leave anything behind are one example of NOT messaging. I’m sure there are others.Jumped the gun a lttle:-} and blogged about the social graphs… ; am sure you’ll have much more to say.It’s fun to see our discussion continuing in the comments of your blog.

  7. abah

    Why not rationalize into people’s existings workflows (ex: gmail)? Gmail already stores all of my email and IM’s. Even when I am using thick clients (iPhone, etc) it finds its way into my cloud-store. Services like gmail (hotmail, yahoo, etc) should move to integrate with other messaging formats. Add one at a time and you’ll make people happier incrementally. Start with SMS, so phone conversations also become stored chats, and from my web client I can send SMS messages. Integrate RSS blogs / posts, with some manner of pulling in my comments.Google bought GrandCentral – which would allow it to also integrate your voicemail into this same system.We really aren’t that far away from this rationalization, and I don’t see there being a huge opportunity for a company to do this for us, given that it is really just an incremental innovation. There might be many small opportunities (to be the company that integrates messaging system X and sells it to de facto communication platform Y).As a consumer, I want to use what I am already using to organize and store all of my communications – don’t give me a new service I have to use on top of that.

  8. Derek Scruggs

    Careful – you’re wandering into architecture astronaut territory. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      I do that all the time. I am an architecture astronautfred

  9. Biff

    Hi there,I think you might be interested to read our thoughts on Open Messaging as an evolution of Everywhere Messaging/Everywhere Publishing. You can download the PDF from the front page of or read the thoughts that led to it in the Open Messaging category: brilliant discussion you’re having here. It’s great to see a brainstorming session extending to the comments!~biff~

  10. sippey

    i tossed off a post a few years ago now titled “it’s messages all the way down,” thinking about the axes of privacy and context (high/low in each case) and the systems for sending / sharing / reading those messages.…The tools are getting to the point where we’d be able to do some kind of unified messaging; as Scott notes the value will be in the flavor of the filter. Facebook’s news feed is one flavor, Outlook’s inbox is another, Google Reader is yet another, etc. Pick your flavor…or the flavor that fits you at the moment. That’s /sort of/ what’s happening now — I want filtered information about what my friends are doing, it’s Twitterific. I want filtered information about what my colleagues are doing, it’s the intranet RSS stream. I want filtered information about what applications my friends have installed, I go to Facebook.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s exactly how I think about itThanks for the linkFred