start-ups, technology, venture capital

We’ve Reached Peak Emoticon

Some quick observations of people, technology, communication and expression.

Observation 1. Our computer screens are no longer black. Our typeface is no longer green. When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984 that changed. We discovered the word font for the first time. We made art with a mouse and MacPaint. Consumers became creators.

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Observation 2. People have always looked to technology to help them communicate. In 1994, Radiolinja launched the first commercial SMS service. And a year later, they worked with Telecom Finland to offer interoperability so that their customers could send messages to one another no matter who was their service provider.

Observation 3. Despite these decades old advances, SMS largely looks like it did when it launched. Yes, we can send pictures and video through MMS but when we want to express ourselves, we still use emoticons. In the US, more than 155B SMS messages are sent every year and the best we can do is ASCII art emoticons. :-/

Observation 4a and 4b. (Metcalfe’s Law) Any next generation system which would allow for richer communication would have to be instantly cross-platform. The same way that SMS was useless when consumers could only communicate with people who used the same service provider, it would be useless if they could only communicate with people on the same device. Any next generation system which would allow for richer communication would have to instantly have many users.

Last spring, when I met with Arjun Sethi to learn about his new product MessageMe, we talked about everything above. It was easy to agree with him on the first three points. The challenge was how to overcome Metcalfe’s Law. Arjun replied by telling me about his background – he previously built one of the extraordinarily viral Lolapps. He then told me about his product plan – he wouldn’t launch until he was on iOS and Android. Then he let me install an alpha version of MessageMe on my phone. I was instantly hooked – as was the whole team at First Round. We could easily send doodles, videos, voice messages or (my favorite) pictures with snarky scribbles on them.

I’m proud to say that since First Round made our investment in MessageMe last spring, my emoticon abuse has fallen – I’m sending doodles and videos instead of ASCII winks. The first release is now generally available on iOS and Android. Get it today and together we can move past peak emoticon.

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  1. Pingback: When You Build A Moat, You’re Just Digging a Big Hole | The Cornice

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