Photo Messaging: What Will They Think of Next?

Photo Messaging: What Will They Think of Next?

By Dave Michels August 19, 2013 4 Comments
Dave Michels
Photo Messaging: What Will They Think of Next? by Dave Michels

Real innovation, the type that imposes disruptive change on the life of a worker or a consumer, typically results from an innovator believing that the status quo is no longer good enough. The history of communications has proved this repeatedly, perhaps in no segment more so than messaging.

A recent announcement of a new form of messaging, photo messaging to be precise,  got me thinking about the past and the future.

First came voice messaging (voicemail), at least as far as technology-based messaging is concerned. This replaced the long-standing paper-based approach of messaging (the other kind of pinkslip). Pinkslips (While You Were Out) were a pain. It forced employees to check with someone like a receptionist if they had any messages.

Because there was an intermediary involved, messages were rarely personal or complex. Typically, only that “Joe called and said to call him back.” This very failure to actually communicate, along with digitization improvements had plenty to do with the growth of voicemail. Users reveled in the delight of receiving “detailed” messages, complete with all sorts of usable information. Indeed, voice mailboxes brought phonetag to a whole new level, as two people could carry out an entire conversation without ever actually talking live.

After a good run of 15-20 years, voicemail switched from facilitating communications to hindering it. It seemed impossible to reach anyone – it was the birth of our mobility quest. We were becoming mobile, but our phones weren’t. No longer did people update their greetings on a daily basis (I never understood that anyway), the ever-useful group message went the way of the dinosaur and early adopters gave birth to a new messaging medium called email.

Technically email predates voicemail, but it was the Internet boom of the late 90s that made email effective between companies. Email soon became something we no longer knew how we once lived without.  In an ironic twist, it was the voicemail industry that got the pink slip. Well, not quite – voicemail is standard issue and continues to get used. AVST is the heir apparent and continues to push the technology forward with things like speech recognition and location based routing, but clearly voicemail isn’t the only messaging solution anymore.

While at the height of email growth it seemed impossible to imagine what messaging could bring us next, something the mobile companies called text messaging was brewing. Limited in length – indeed emails could go on as long as they liked – but did not require a computer or a physical connection. It proved to be useful for finding people on the go – like where to meet at the airport. Alas, while email is not going away, texting has nibbled its way into the business world. Email is for longer form less urgent communications.

Less pervasive but still popular forms of messaging have evolved, mostly under the broader roof of social media. Those who use these services often, like Facebook and Twitter, often use them as a central form of two-way messaging. What’s fascinating about social messaging is the group dynamic. Posting a comment to someone’s status is often aimed more at the group as a public declaration. Suddenly, non participants are active in a conversation. The long cc list on email was similar, but there was at least a record of who was included.... now there isn’t. I meet complete strangers at a conference who know what movie I recently saw.

Now comes the advent of what some call “Photo Messaging.” This new-fangled medium leverages the near 100 percent penetration of the picture-enabled smartphone. Photo messaging works like this: you take a picture of yourself (selfie) or your surroundings and along with metadata-like location it becomes the message. No text, no email, no nothing – though they do say a picture is worth a thousand words. Just the picture itself represents the message.

Even more amazing is the recipient then replies back with a photo message of their own – we have now non-verbal and non-textual message-based conversations. Several startups, including one called DingDong (yes, that’s right), are chasing this apparent new need. DingDong and others are profiled in here.

I started by saying that innovation is spurred by problems or inefficiencies with the incumbent methods, but I can’t say I fully understand what was wrong enough to spur on photo messaging. Then again, I imagine there were many who were satisfied with their little pink slips. When it comes to something as pervasive as messaging, perhaps we should assume something better (or different) is always around the corner. Could that be Video mail?


4 Responses to "Photo Messaging: What Will They Think of Next?" - Add Yours

Marty Hollander 8/20/2013 8:49:32 AM

Thank you for the wonderful walk through history! While some of us have lived through all these stages, I think that some readers will find this as strange as talking about a typewriter or a slide rule.

As we migrate our real-time communication from voice to the richer video communications, it seems obvious that VM will come to mean "Video Mail".
Roberta J. Fox 8/20/2013 9:23:38 AM

Dave: Agree with Marty's comment about the great history lesson!

Your comments about photo messaging got me thinking about the challenges this will drive....Photo messaging will certainly drive a lot more traffic on the cellular networks.
This then got me thinking and worry about the network and storage challenges for enterprises (not consumer users). How will they also have to adapt their BYOD policies and guidelines to include MYOP (manage your own photos???), etc., etc. What will be the real value this application will bring?

Guess the net is that each type of messaging drives changes in policies, procedures, management, security....on and on. This is combined with the fact that many of the old mediums still continue to be used and managed. (just like the entertainment industry...LPs to 8 track, then cassettes, to laser disks, to CDs, to downloads, etc.)

Good thing is that nothing stays constant, and technology continues to advance, whether we want it to or not!
Art Rosenberg 8/20/2013 4:43:19 PM


There are no limits to the forms of messaging, including any medium, any mode of posting and retrieval (UM), and any mode of notification and response. However, you still need different "mailboxes" for job and personal messaging. That is what "dual persona" UC is all about, including both "click-to-contact" and "click-to-respond/reply." And with the Internet as your connection, you will soon forget about phone numbers!
Mike Johnson 8/23/2013 5:20:03 AM

Other than for Social Media, promo and marketing purposes I don't see B2B SnapChat or Vine or the above mentioned Ding Dong adding much value to business communications. Personal use, sure.

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