Why Skype Acquired GroupMe and Why the Facebook (and Google) Approach Is Right

It is widely reported that Skype has acquired the maker of GroupMe, a group messaging app that is fairly popular. Apps like this have been springing up all over the place recently.

The apps have proven so popular that many of the big boys, i.e. Google and Facebook, are getting in on the action as well. Google, actually has two separate group messaging apps, Google+ Hangouts and Disco.

Yet the acquisition may be a bit strange coming from Skype, a company that has based itself around the notion of ditching phones, or even phone services, as means of communication.

Group messaging apps on the other hand, by and large, rely on SMS to get messages to and from users.

But group messaging apps and Skype are in fact very similar, in that, while they sometimes rely on current methods of communication, phones and the services associated with them, they intend to change the system from within.

Facebook Messenger for example, is a new stand-alone group messaging app. It's the only stand-alone app from Facebook available.

It too relies on SMS, but it's only a backup, it also uses Facebook notifications to send the message. To the users, the medium through which the message is sent is irrelevant.

In fact, there's no better example of this grander concept than the latest iteration of Facebook Messages. The feature aims to become the one and only place for all of your communications, emails, Facebook chat, direct messages, all end up in one place.

Skype is available on a number of devices, desktops, phones even TVs. But the experience is still fragmented, people are going to use Skype to video chat, but something else to send an email and something else from that send a short message, be it IM or a text message.

With a group messaging app under its belt, provided the company manages to integrate the feature with its existing client in a seamless way, Skype will be able to power more of your communication needs.

In fact, Skype needs to do this if it wants to stay relevant. While it's fairly popular now and enjoys a dominant position with voice and video chat, the competition is attacking from the flanks.

Google for example has built everything but the kitchen sink into Gmail, there are emails of course, but also instant messaging, voice and video chat and, more recently, phone calls.

Facebook is going in the same direction, it has an email message, a separate notifications system, real-time chat and now, voice and video chat courtesy of Skype, in fact.

But even as Facebook is partnering with Skype now, the social networking giant is highly ambitious and it's not inconceivable that it would develop its own voice and video chat service, despite its strong tie with Microsoft, which is in the process of buying Skype.

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