The concept of instant messaging crossed into the mainstream in the 1990s, allowing friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and like-minded thinkers from all over the world to connect in real-time.
Since then, instant messaging has revolutionized how we communicate, and today over 2.5 billion people are signed up for at least one messaging app. The present IM experience is seamless, and it intuitively integrates features like video, photos, voice, e-commerce, and gaming with plain-old messaging.
However, despite the impressive features of dominant apps like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp, today’s technology would simply not be possible without the earlier breakthroughs of their more rudimentary predecessors.
Instant Messaging: Past, Present, and Future
The following infographic from Hello Pal, a messaging app allowing for instant translation, shows the evolution of instant messaging. It pays homage to the advancements made in the early days by apps such as ICQ or AIM, while also looking at the trends in IM that will surface in the coming years.
While messaging is commonplace today, it was only two decades ago that chatting with friends and strangers online was a revolutionary concept.
The History of Instant Messaging
1961 – MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS), along with other multi-user operating systems, helps to pioneer instant messaging by allowing up to 30 users to chat in real-time.
1988 – Internet Relay Chat (IRC) allows users to connect to networks with client software to chat with groups in real-time. IRC peaked in popularity in the 1990s, but still has hundreds of thousands of users today.
The late 1990s sees the first major competing IM platforms arrive: ICQ, AIM, MSN, and Yahoo all fight for market share in the new instant messaging market.
1992 – The first SMS message, “Merry Christmas”, is sent over the Vodafone GSM network in the U.K. in December.
1996 – Israeli company Mirabilis launches ICQ, which allowed users to chat one-on-one or in groups, exchange files, and search for other users. At its peak in 2001, ICQ had over 100 million accounts registered.
1997 – AOL launches AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), which pioneers the “Buddy List” concept. By the mid-2000s, AIM has the largest share of the instant messaging market in North America with 52%.
1998 – Yahoo! Messenger launches, allowing users with a Yahoo! ID to connect.
1999 – Microsoft releases MSN Messenger, a competitor to AIM and Yahoo. By 2005, roughly 2.5 billion messages are sent each day on the platform.
1999 – Across the Pacific Ocean, Tencent Holdings launches its first successful app. It’s called QQ, and it is initially a near-exact clone of ICQ.
To many, the 2000s is a Golden Age for instant messaging. Sharing photos, making video calls, and playing games are now common platform features
2001: By this time, only 30 million SMS text messages are sent per month in the United States.
2002: Apple launches iChat for its Mac OS X operating system, which is compatible with AIM.
2003: Skype allows Internet users to communicate with others through video, voice and instant messaging.
2005: Google Talk, available in a Gmail user’s window, is launched to allow easy communication between email contacts.
2006: MySpace launches the first instant messaging platform built within a social network: MySpaceIM.
2006: Market Snapshot (US Market)
- AIM: 53 million
- MSN: 27 million
- Yahoo: 22 million
- Google: 866,000
2006: By this time, 12.5 billion SMS text messages were sent each month in the United States
2008: Facebook Chat is released, allowing Facebook users to message friends or groups of friends on the social network. (Later on, Facebook would release a standalone mobile app version called Facebook Messenger in 2011.)
2009: An upstart WhatsApp allows users to text, send video, and audio for free.
Instant messaging undergoes a renaissance in the 2010s, as new apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and WeChat change how the game is played.
The popularity of new platforms change the concept of messaging entirely:
Initially started by Tencent as a clone of WhatsApp, WeChat is now much more than a chat app. It’s a fully integrated mobile platform with shopping, payments, games, and much more.
WeChat processed $46 billion in payments in January 2016 – that’s about as twice as much as Paypal.
Snapchat, which is popular with millennials, allows users to send “snaps” which disappear after an allotted amount of time.
The app has evolved into a mix of private and public content, including brand networks and coverage of live events.
Slack’s workplace collaboration software allows teams to communicate easily and efficiently.
Slack was the fastest company to hit “unicorn” status ever, taking just 1.25 years to be worth over $1 billion.
The 50 Biggest Video Game Franchises by Total Revenue
Video games generate billions in revenue every year. Where the majority of this revenue comes from, however, may be surprising to you.
The 50 Biggest Video Game Franchises by Total Revenue
When the world’s first video game, Tennis for Two, was revealed at a science fair in 1958, people were fascinated—there was clearly something special.
Since these humble beginnings, video games have rode waves of technological advancements to burgeon into a $100+ billion industry. To visualize this success, today’s infographic from TitleMax lists the top 50 highest-grossing video games franchises.
While this feat is impressive on its own, the way many of these franchises generate their revenue may come as a shock.
How Do Video Games Generate Billions?
Video games first saw large-scale commercial success in the 1980s, in what some describe as the “golden age of arcade games”. As arcades popped up across America, renowned classics like Pac-man and Space Invaders raked in large sums of money, one coin at a time.
Today, there are two revenue models generally followed by video game publishers—the traditional pay-to-play (P2P) model, and the newer free-to-play (F2P) model.
For much of the industry’s modern history, P2P models have been the default option. A developer incurs costs to produce its games, so it sells them to consumers to recover costs and make a profit.
Under a F2P model, however, the developer essentially distributes its games for free. Players don’t have to pay anything if they don’t want to, and the developer runs the risk that it may never recoup its costs.
So why would a developer ever choose a F2P model? Let’s look at industry data from 2019:
|Platform||Free-to-play (F2P) Revenue||Pay-to-play (P2P) Revenue|
Those aren’t typos. F2P games accounted for a whopping 82% of industry revenue in 2019. What’s more, is that this gap continues to grow: since the previous year, F2P revenue grew 6%, while P2P revenue fell by 5%.
The Power of Discretionary Spending
There’s a number of F2P franchises listed in today’s graphic which have grossed well over a billion dollars in total revenue.
|#15||League of Legends||Riot Games¹||PC||$8.4B|
|#21||Arena of Valor||Tencent||Mobile||$6.4B|
|#23||Clash of Clans||Supercell²||Mobile||$6.0B|
|#27||Candy Crush Saga||King³||Mobile||$4.9B|
|#46||Fortnite||Epic Games⁴||Console, Mobile, PC||$2.5B|
¹wholly-owned subsidiary of Tencent, ²majority-owned subsidiary of Tencent, ³wholly-owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, ⁴Tencent owns a 40% stake.
Because these types of games are often published for PC or mobile phone (most people have at least one of these), their accessibility becomes a key advantage. This is especially true in China, where video game consoles like Xbox have been banned in the past.
Yet, simply amassing a large player base isn’t enough. With no money being paid upfront, developers must create compelling incentives for players to willingly part with their cash.
League of Legends
League of Legends, one of the world’s most popular video games, is widely considered a successful pioneer in this regard.
When developer Riot Games chose a F2P model for its game, it took a gamble. The model was largely unproven for titles of its genre, and it’s main source of revenue was set to be the sale of purely cosmetic items called “character skins”.
Nobody would have tried Legends if we put a price point in front of it because the game is tough to sell
—Marc Merrill, Co-founder of Riot Games
Part of the game’s incentive to spend comes from its longevity—League of Legends has just entered its 11th year. Rather than release a new title, the developer makes continuous improvements to the existing game, with each iteration dubbed as a new “season”.
If a traditional P2P game represents a movie, League of Legends could then be considered a long-running TV show. For example, while there’s been one League of Legends since 2009, there’s been 11 Call of Duty titles over that same time frame.
Joining the Party
Some of the world’s most successful video game franchises, which have historically published games under the P2P model, are also expanding into free games with great success.
For Pokémon (#1 in gross revenue), product diversification is nothing new. While the franchise manages a universe of offerings from physical merchandise to movies, its free mobile augmented reality (AR) game, Pokémon Go, may be one of its most successful endeavors.
The game, which leads players out into the real world to catch virtual monsters, was a massive sensation when it launched in 2016. In fact, it was so popular (and distracting) it’s been estimated to have contributed to more than 100,000 car accidents.
Four years since its release, Pokémon Go is a shining example of what the F2P model can achieve—the game has racked up over 1 billion downloads and generated an incredible $3 billion in revenues.
|Year||Gross Revenue||% Change|
Source: Sensor Tower Store Intelligence
Part of Pokémon Go’s incentive to spend comes from its incredibly unique social experience—it
turns real world landmarks into hubs where players can gather. By simply leveraging the capabilities of existing smartphones, it’s also extremely accessible.
Is Free the New Norm?
As more and more franchises successfully expand into free games, it’s clear that the F2P model will be the primary driver of future growth. The relatively higher accessibility of F2P games is also crucial to tap into the quickly growing esports industry.
However, traditional P2P games, which are now being called “premium games”, still have some merit to them. These games are often associated with a higher level of quality which people are happy to pay for.
Yet, as the legitimacy and success of the F2P model continues to develop, this quality gap could also shrink in the future.
Editor’s note: The revenue figures in today’s infographic include merchandise and other related products.
Visualized: Where 5G Will Change The World
5G is set to revamp industries around the world, but the benefits may not be equally distributed. Here’s what the global landscape may look like in 2035.
Where 5G Will Change The World
View the high resolution version of this infographic.
We’re on the cusp of a 5G revolution.
Whereas 4G brought us the network speeds necessary for online apps and mobile-streaming, 5G represents a monumental leap forward. Beyond the improvements to our existing ecosystem of devices—more speed and better stability—researchers believe that 5G can serve as the underpinning for fully-connected industries and cities.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and for us to experience 5G’s true potential, we’ll need to be patient. In light of this, today’s infographic from Raconteur visualizes the forecasted impact of 5G to help us identify the countries and industries that will most effectively leverage its power.
5G networks are expected to generate $13.2 trillion in global sales activity by 2035. To make this easier to digest, here are the five industries which stand to benefit the most.
|Rank||Industry||Sales ($B)||Share of Industry Sales (%)|
|#2||Information and Communication||$1,569||10.7%|
|#3||Wholesale and Retail Sales||$1,198||5.1%|
Let’s focus on manufacturing, an industry which is expected to see a massive $4.6 trillion in 5G-enabled sales.
Efficiency is the name of the game here, and researchers predict that this technology will allow for the world’s first “smart factories”. Such factories would leverage the faster speed and reliability of 5G networks to eliminate cabled connections, improve automated processes, and most importantly, gather more data.
Combined with machine learning algorithms, this data can help companies predict when expensive equipment is about to fail, reducing the likelihood of expensive downtime.
– AT&T Business Editorial
Robots won’t be the only ones to benefit, however. While today’s factories may be lined with machines, humans are still required to be onsite for troubleshooting when issues arise. Some processes may also be too intricate to be effectively automated, thus requiring a human’s touch.
With the lower latencies (shorter delay) boasted by 5G networks, virtual and augmented reality devices can become reliable enough for use in high precision work. This exciting development has the potential to greatly increase a human worker’s productivity, as well as allow them to work in closer harmony with robots.
In fact, such technologies are already being used on factory floors.
Leading The Way
Developing 5G networks and implementing them into the many industries of the global economy is a massive undertaking, and just seven countries are expected to account for 79% of all 5G-related investment.
By 2035, here’s how these countries are expected to rank.
|Country||Share of Value Chain R&D|
and Capital Expenditure
|5G-enabled Output ($B)||5G-enabled Employment
|🇺🇸 United States||26.7%||$786||2.8|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3.8%||$114||0.5|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||2.9%||$128||0.7|
Incidentally, these seven nations are also some of the world’s most innovative economies.
Let’s take a closer look at the two biggest players in 5G development.
It’s not a surprise to see the U.S. on top in terms of 5G investment, though it seems the country is in a peculiar position. China is right on their heels in terms of investment, and is even forecasted to surpass them in 5G-enabled output and employment.
Chinese tech giant Huawei is likely a factor behind these numbers. The company—which America has no direct rival to—is currently the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment.
Developments such as these have formed the general consensus that China is winning the “5G race”, but putting America down for a second place finish may be a mistake. With renowned tech hubs like Silicon Valley, the U.S. still leads the rest of the world in terms of patent activity and high-tech company density.
There will be a tendency to cast these developments as another sign that the United States is losing the race … [but] U.S. companies can dominate the applications and services that run over 5G.
– Adam Segal, Director, Council on Foreign Relations
Part of what makes 5G so special is its potential to be used across a wider variety of applications including autonomous vehicles and manufacturing. Perhaps it’s here where American tech firms can use their innovative capacity and software expertise to carve out an advantage.
Being the world’s largest manufacturer means China is well-positioned to leverage the power of 5G networks. With nearly 11 million 5G-enabled jobs and over $1.3 trillion in output by 2035, China’s estimates are magnitudes larger than the other countries on this list.
A reason why China is such a cost-efficient place to make things is its well-established network of suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors. All three of these sectors are likely to implement 5G networks for improved speed and efficiency.
China is no slouch when it comes to innovation, either. In terms of patent activity, it ranks second in the world. Shenzhen, once a small fishing village, has become China’s answer to Silicon Valley, and is home to domestic telecom giants like Huawei and ZTE Corporation.
Yet, China faces serious obstacles as it seeks to supply the rest of the world with 5G equipment. Huawei is the subject of U.S. sanctions over allegations of its dealings with Iran. Further skepticism arises from the company’s dubious ownership structure, reliance on state subsidies, and claims of espionage.
Huawei’s quest for dominance in the global telecommunications industry has involved tactics and practices that are antithetical to fair, healthy competition.
– Foreign Policy (magazine)
Regardless of the damage these controversies may cause, China shows no signs of slowing down. The country already holds bragging rights for the world’s largest 5G consumer network, and even claims to have begun research on 6G, an eventual successor to 5G.
The Waiting Game
It’s important to remember that the vast majority of 5G benefits are still years away.
Thus, this next generation of mobile networks can be thought of as an enabling technology—new innovations and complementary technologies will be needed to realize its full potential.
While today’s infographic paints an intuitive visualization of the 5G roadmap, only time will tell which industries and countries actually see the most benefits.
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