The Dark Side of Messaging Services

June 24, 2014

As the old saying goes: What happens in Messaging stays in Messaging.

The dark side

This is something I didn’t expect. A post earlier this month on TNW by Kaylene Hong reported on Tencent shutting down 20 million accounts:

Tencent revealed today that it has shut down a whopping 20 million accounts on its WeChat messaging app, as they were linked with providing prostitution services. It has also closed 30,000 public fake accounts.

That is a staggering amount of ~5% of its monthly active users. In a world where the race to the top of the messaging pile is on, that is a huge loss.

While this is China, and we can’t really know if these accounts were related to prostitution services – or just to things the Chinese government didn’t favor – it does bring with it some interesting food for thought: up until now, the closest behavior I was aware of was sexting.

Each technology being introduced can be used for good or bad. I’ve recommended a science fiction book on the adoption of technology, which is appropriate here as well.

This brings me to the ephemeral and private messaging services that are rolling out on a daily basis. Here are a few that comes to mind:

  • Snapchat, the teenage’s sexting tool of choice (and the acquirer of AddLive)
  • Telegram, a messaging service that came to our attention when Whatsapp got acquired by Facebook. They offer encryption and the ability to delete messages. They took a step further to publicize the protocol they use, which is an interesting step. Not a big player, but an interesting one
  • FireChat, which can communicate without any direct internet connection from your device; targeted at those looking for privacy from their government
  • Secret, enabling us to share our secrets anonymously

All of these services are aimed to restore our “lost” privacy from the ongoing Snowden revelation. Each taking a different approach to it. And all can be extremely powerful tools, but can also be abused.

Is this just a trend or are these services showing the way to the future of messaging?


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