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There are so many messaging apps on the market right now that just keeping track of them is close to impossible. WhatsApp, Snapchat, Path, and Line live alongside Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger and a plethora of instant messaging stalwarts like Yahoo! And AOL. And these are just the consumer apps. For business communications you have BBM from BlackBerry, Microsoft Lync, instant messaging that’s part of Salesforce1 and Chatter plus messaging built into unified communications platforms such as Jabber from Cisco. Add to that a boatload of SMS applications and the sheer number of ways to send someone a simple message is overwhelming.

There is one big problem with all messaging platforms, mobile or otherwise – the applications don’t talk to each other. Most of these messaging applications are closed networks and can’t communicate through a common protocol. This is not a big problem for consumers who connect to a limited number of friends and family over a few networks. For business users, however, with many contacts spread across company approved networks, it makes it hard to have a single platform to communicate internally and externally. At present, SMS and Email still have the advantage for the business user since they use protocols common to all applications of those types.

Instant messaging is a great way to have a less intrusive, real-time conversation. Applications in business include arranging and convening meetings, making quick decisions, or answering a question immediately. It’s like a phone call without having to stop what you are doing. And it makes no sense to dismiss consumer messaging applications in a business context. Many SMB organizations use consumer products and it’s hard to imagine that the consumer app developers don’t want to find a way to leverage their technology in businesses. Business-oriented or consumer applications alike are hampered by the inability to send messages across platforms. In other words, the utility of messaging platforms is limited by lack of interoperability between applications.

For messaging platforms to realize their potential in business, there will need to be a way to send messages to any potential platform without having to provide specific hooks into a very large number of applications. Instead, a common message transport is necessary for business users to really draw value from messaging. This is why email has been so successful. An email sent form any email client or email server can communicate with any other email system. The same is true for SMS. Multi-protocol clients are not the answer since they can’t keep up with all the platforms, new and old.

Instant messaging platforms have been around for over 20 years. Isn’t it about time that we finally had just one, standard protocol for all users?