Thursday, July 31, 2014

Invention of the Day - Instant Messaging

It's hard to imagine today's life without instant messaging. The service has become one of the Dominant Designs in the Internet era. As we write in Scalable Innovation (Chapter 13):

Dominant Design is an implementation of a new functionality that the market adopts as the prototype for future implementations. Simply put, the dominant design is what everybody thinks all products or services in the new category should imitate.

US Patent 6,449,344

Today's IT giants — Google, Facebook, IBM,  Microsoft, Yahoo, Alibaba, and others provide instant messaging services as a "must have" feature. Recently, Facebook paid $19B for Whatsup, a company that built its mobile service using the instant messaging ideas. 

The original technology was developed in 1996 by an Israeli company Mirabilis and released during the same year as ICQ chat software. The service was extremely successful, even despite being characterized as the world's "ugliest website.

In 1998, AOL bought Mirabilis for $287M - a pitiful sum by today's Internet M&A standards. Eventually, AOL rebranded the service as the AOL Messenger. 

Instant Messaging had other important implications for the world of technology. First, ICQ influenced the development of other peer-to-peer (P2P) services, such as Napster, Gnutella, Skype, and others, which revolutionized content distribution and communications in the beginning of the 21st century.

Second, the business success of Mirabilis put Israel on the global map of Internet innovation and served as a catalyst for the creation of a thriving tech entrepreneurship culture in the country. 

Third, Instant Messaging helped initiate the Internet services era that exploded with the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphones.

Arguably, the invention of Instant Messaging is as important to the world as Graham Bell's invention of the phone in 1876. 

tags: invention, innovation, facebook, google, microsoft, dominant, design, 10x

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