Whatsapp: Strategic Mistake?

Whatsapp added a delete message feature – is that even necessary?

November 1st, 2017 | Strategy

Yesterday, WhatsApp fascinated the world with a new feature: message deletion.

Probably something a lot of people had been hoping that WhatsApp would have for a long time, especially those that accidentally send an auto-corrected message to the last person who should be reading that very message. So of course a lot of people would find this a hugely welcome addition to the progressively improving WhatsApp.

However, we at Joji sense a strategic mistake instead of an improvement that actually improves the app.

We think its a strategic mistake to add the delete function.

Why did we make such a claim: we need to analyse why WhatsApp had been so dominant (outside China) despite the heavy competition among the chat apps, with powerful competitions like WeChat, KakaoTalk, LINE, Snapchat, Skype, etc…

SERIOUSNESS.
WhatsApp sets itself apart from all the other chat apps, for being simple, minimalist and no nonsense. There are no cute stickers, no content, no “wall” – there is literally no fluff. And this created an interesting persona for WhatsApp : it became SMS2.0.

While the SMS enter its inevitable decline with the rise of faster and more convenient internet access on the mobile/cell phone, it heralded the rise of the internet chat apps to take advantage of the disruption in the messaging space. While some chat app went into a more social-centric direction, and others want to revolutionize communication in the internet age with webcams and instant voice chat – WhatsApp largely kept themselves within a simple concept of an “improved SMS” – the familiar feel to SMS and simplicity quickly brought it to become the premier chat app in many countries around the world.

THE DE FACTO BUSINESS CHAT APP
In Singapore, WhatsApp is especially successful at establishing themselves as the app for business communications (apart from Skype / Google Hangouts, which is mainly use for teleconferencing). WhatsApp is also used by many businesses as a note taking app among colleagues or between boss and his/her staffs. Everything that is sent into the WhatsApp are as good as “set in stone”.

For some businesses that I observed, entire business operation and communications is done through WhatsApp and Voice Calls (half of them probably also through WhatsApp). Employees and vendors uses the app as a way to be answerable to their respective connections. The date and time stamps are indications of a timely respond to clients as well as prove of “approvals” when dispute arises. The very lack of the ability to delete message, made WhatsApp as powerful legally, as the Email chains.

THUS THE PROBLEM
Thus, the WhatsApp messages’ “enduring history”, that enabled it to outperform itself beyond that of just a basic chat app, is now utterly smashed with the addition of the delete function – people’s words that is sent through WhatsApp suddenly lost much its legitimacy. Words can now be said, and then retracted by deletion. The time & date stamp of an important message that we behold a person to their words, can now be nothing more than a “message is deleted”.

The Very Essense of WhatsApp is Lost.

WhatsApp lost its soul.


We at Joji cannot comprehend the folly of this decision, a feature that can neither bring more users into using the app, nor can it make WhatsApp more money, furthermore encouraging users to be more reckless with their words while destroying the business functions that it used to embody. This will not increase their market share or usage, but we believe it will actually cause WhatsApp to lose market share.

We are highly disappointed with this feature and this move – and this will no doubt, shake up the entire messaging app industry.

People’s words that is sent through WhatsApp suddenly lost much its legitimacy. Words can now be said, and then retracted by deletion. The time & date stamp of an important message that we behold a person to their words, can now be nothing more than a “message is deleted”.

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