All Mobile Apps Expand Until...

by Luke Wroblewski March 12, 2013

From phone calls to SMS, mobile devices have deep roots in communication. So it's no wonder that people use them to talk to each other -a lot. In fact, this behavior is so dominant it could become "law".

Jamie Zawinski's popular Law of Software Envelopment states:

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

I think this could be restated for mobile applications as:

Every mobile app attempts to expand until it includes chat. Those applications which do not are replaced by ones which can.

Some Data

  • Apple's iMessage delivers over two billion messages per day. (source)
  • Japanese chat app, Line, took only 399 days to reach 50M users. That's 3x faster than Instagram. (source)
  • Snapchat, the impermanent messaging app, now sees 60 million snaps sent per day, and users have sent over 5 billion snaps in total. (source)
  • When mobile networking app Path added private chat, in the first 24 hours it made more money than it had in its entire lifetime as a company. More than 1 million messages sent by users within the first 24 hours . (source)

Mobile Social Networking

The bigger idea here is that what works on the desktop does not necessarily translate directly over to mobile. Consider the case of Path, which essentially created a mini-version of Facebook in its first few iterations. That may be a decent social networking experience on the desktop, but a mobile social network looks more like a combination of chat & photo sharing, which is what Path just iterated to.

Google+ take note. You have Android, Google Chat, and Hangouts. The pieces are there for a mobile social network at the OS level, not just within apps.