Seven hundred million is a big number. 700 million of almost anything is a lot, but when you're talking about users, it's the kind of number that makes investors and analysts start to drool. It's also the amount of monthly users that popular alternative messaging app WhatsApp now has, at least according to an announcement by CEO Jan Koum. For context, Facebook initialized a purchase of WhatsApp last February (finalized in October) for approximately 22 billion dollars, when the service reportedly had "only" 450 million users.
You may not use WhatsApp to send messages, but it's still the most popular messaging platform in the world. As such, it's a big deal when the switch gets flipped and all those messages are suddenly encrypted. That's what the company is doing now thanks to the just-announced integration of the TextSecure protocol from Open Whisper Systems.
Android users have yet another option for data-only calls and text messages today, as BitTorrent Inc. posted an alpha version of its Bleep communication client to the Play Store. Bleep is designed to be an alternative to conventional calling and texting systems like Skype or WhatsApp, and requires no central server or service. Bleep has been invite-only since July, but now it's ready to go public. Clients are also available for Windows and OS X computers.
Don't try too hard to pitch a product. When I first came across Toymail, I thought it seemed amusing enough. Here's the concept - people (preferably parents, siblings, or friends) speak a message into an app, and that message then comes out of a kid's toy in a weird voice. There's potential for fun here. Sure, I see it. I've been a kid before.
But then I watched the promotional video.
Pinterest is all about sharing photos of things you like and browsing the great many items that other users have pinned. For such an inherently social experience, it's relatively solitary, despite people having the ability to comment on one another's pins. Users can recommend something for their friend to pin instead, but that's the social equivalent of handing someone a magazine clipping and walking away. Well, now Pinterest is reaching out to grab your shoulder so that your friend can have time to respond.
The BBM app might have made a real impact if it had arrived a few years ago, but it's not very impressive in today's Android ecosystem. However, the app is currently sitting at a very respectable 4.2 stars in Google Play. Good for BlackBerry, right? Well, maybe not. Starting on the first page there is a strange pattern of mostly 5-star reviews with identical or very similar wording. Something is fishy.
For many moons, Android users were crying out for a unified messaging solution, and Blackberry Messenger seemed like a good solution. As Android was starting to take off in late 2009, BlackBerry (at the time RIM) was already feeling pressure from the iPhone, so why not branch out and get users hooked on BBM? Perhaps management was in denial as the co-CEOs actively dismissed the clear trends in mobile around that time.