Messengers exist since the Internet is accessible for consumers. While web chats like ICQ and IRC where quite popular in the early days, mobile messengers are now just starting to take off more than ever.
To elaborate why it's so necessary for messengers to be available cross-platform, let's take a short look into computer history:
Time-shared computing 😞⏲
The first commercially available computers were not only huge, but also very expensive. Some of the first machines were as big as a football field.
Therefore, companies couldn't afford a computer for every employee and task within a company. Sharing computational time on mainframe computers became hugely popular.
Personal computers to the rescue? 😏💻
A personal computer is a general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities and original sale price make it useful for individuals, and is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer time-sharing models that allowed larger, more expensive minicomputer and mainframe systems to be used by many people, usually at the same time. 1
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some companies including IBM took the chance to build affordable computers for the mass market. In 1977 Apple built its first highly successful mass-produced minicomputer called Apple II.
Only a couple if years later in 1982, Commodore built its flagship Commodore 64 a.k.a. C64, which is still the highest-selling single computer model of all time.
In the following years, a lot more companies started building PCs and later on laptops. Eventually in 2000, 51% of all U.S. households had at least one or more computers available. 2
Ubiquitous Computing aka everything is a computer 😀⌚️
Ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) is a concept in software engineering and computer science where computing is made to appear anytime and everywhere. In contrast to desktop computing, ubiquitous computing can occur using any device, in any location, and in any format. A user interacts with the computer, which can exist in many different forms, including laptop computers, tablets and terminals in everyday objects such as a fridge or a pair of glasses. 3
But in the last couple of years, a whole new era began. Some refer to it as the era of Ubiquitous Computing or Pervasive Computing, others refer to it as the Post-PC era.
Since Apple released the first version of its iPhone in June 2007, many other products (beside other smartphones) followed e.g. Google Glass in February 2013, Google's Android Wear Platform in March 2014 and the Apple Watch in April 2014.
While 10 years ago it was common to have only one PC or laptop, people nowadays usually have more than one computing device available: Laptops, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, smart glasses,... you name it.
This also means that people switch between devices based on their current environment. Most of the people are still sitting in front of a PC or a laptop during their work day, but at home or in transit they use a smartphone, a Tablet or just their smartwatch.
Cross-platform messaging FTW! 🚀
Messaging is and has ever been one of the most important applications on computational devices. Nevertheless, messaging applications are dependent on the infrastructure they are deployed on.
Twitter as an early example of cross-platform messaging. It definitely would not have been so popular without smartphones being widely available at an affordable price.
Telegram Messenger as another example is already doing a great job by providing native clients on all major platforms (including web). Facebook Messenger has (beside its native mobile clients) a web version and there are rumours that they are building a native Mac client, too.4
WhatsApp on the other hand is not truly cross-platform, yet made first steps by providing its web version as extended session of a native client.
Messaging is clearly more powerful if all conversations, contacts and messages are synced across all your devices — available wherever the users are and whenever they want.
- Messaging and mobile platforms, Benedict Evans (Mar 2015)
- Why Messengers will be the Future of UX, orat.io Blog (Nov 2015)