Messaging, Circles and Control
About three years ago I was lauding Google Plus to anyone that would listen. I loved the 'circles' feature for its ability to tailor your online content and personality to match the situation - like we do in the real world. Context.
Circles provided control over the reach & visibility of the things you put on the Google Plus platform which was excellent.
Unfortunately Google got almost everything else about it completely wrong and today although it exists, Google Plus is dying a slow and painful death (no matter what the Chocolate Factory might tell you officially).
Now, guess which platforms are doing the exact opposite of dying a slow and painful death?
WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, KIK, Slack, (and Blink pls) are just some of the options available if you want to quickly communicate with someone or share some content.
By absolute definition a "message" only gets sent to a definite audience and I think people are drawn to that assurance.
You can have a group of users sharing content and discussing it whilst being quite sure that unless one of them decides to leak something, what gets said stays exactly within that small world. Never to be taken out of context.
I'm certain that this level of control has significantly contributed to the rise in popularity of these platforms. Users might not even really be conscious of it, but I absolutely believe it's a big part of why they return to messaging.
Take a look at your Whatsapp groups. You have lots of them with different purposes but the same individuals will crop-up across them. Each time they are behaving differently depending on the subject and the rest of the audience in that group.
Tailoring aspects of your personality is important in real life so think about how important it is online where records of it can be surfaced years later without context.
Groups, Channels, Teams or Conversations are all akin to little circles of visibility and they give a user a sense of confidence and control.
This is only one reason why messaging apps are so popular (the rest for another post) but it is interesting to consider whether these factors are playing a bigger part in users choice of platform than they may currently appreciate themselves.
For another post: How advertisers "get into" these closed Conversations will privacy drive the end of 'free'?. Heaven forbid the internet has to pay for a service!