Business Choice

Monday 20 February 2017

The six leading social messaging services

Published 28/08/2015 | 02:30

The Facebook Messenger logo
The Facebook Messenger logo
The Google Hangouts logo
The Skype logo
The Snapchat logo
The Viber logo
The Whatsapp logo

So what are the social messaging services you need to know about? What do each of them do and how do you get started with them? Here are the six most popular services used by Irish people.

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1. whatsapp

Phone calls: Yes

Video calls: No

Messaging: Text, photos and video messages

How it works: Whatsapp is one of the two most popular social messaging services because it's as easy to use for group-messaging (creating a group of friends or contacts and then sending messages between them) as it is for personal one-to-one messages. When you download the app, it asks you to create an account, using your phone number as your initial set-up. (It doesn't access your actual phone account: it just uses the number as an identifier.)

How to find someone: Whatsapp will ask to scan your phone contacts list, from which it will see any other Whatsapp users. (It can tell this because Whatsapp, like Viber, uses the number combination of your mobile number as your personal login when you sign up.)

2. Facebook Messenger

Phone calls: Yes

Video calls: Yes

Messaging: Text, photos and video messages

How it works: Because it piggybacks off Facebook, Messenger - which you now have to download as a separate app to Facebook when using it on a phone - has shot up to become the most subscribed-to messaging service in Ireland. The basic idea is a private messaging service between you and a Facebook friend. You can send messages to someone who isn't a direct friend, but it will probably end up in Facebook's equivalent to a spam folder, called 'other' (and situated next to 'inbox' in Messenger).

How to find someone: Messenger already has all of your Facebook friends as contacts. If you want to add more, you can type in a name and it will return a list of possible Messenger users, putting friends of your own Facebook friends at the top of the list.

3. Snapchat

Phone calls: No

Video calls: No

Messaging: Text, photos and video messages

How it works: Snapchat stands out from its rivals because it's intended as an ephemeral service where messages only last for 10 seconds once they're opened. While this might sound odd, it has become wildly popular - with young people in particular - because people don't worry about long trails of messages coming back to haunt them.

How to find someone: Snapchat is the hardest of all the services to go and find people. For the most part, you have to know the exact username of the person you want to connect with (Snapchat won't tell you if you're wrong). Snapchat's reason for this is privacy: it means that people communicating with you may have to personally ask your username first.

4. Viber

Phone calls: Yes

Video calls: Yes

Messaging: Text, photos, doodles and video messages

How it works: Viber is a sort of cross between Skype and Whatsapp. It lets you send any sort of message or make online calls and also has some premium features - such as calling ordinary mobiles or landlines - too. It can also now be used on a PC, as well as a phone.

How to find someone: Like Whatsapp, Viber offers to scan your phone's contact list, matching off any known Viber users with the phone numbers it finds. Or you can add someone if you know what their phone number is. Viber doesn't offer a general 'search our Viber users' feature.

5. Google


Phone calls: Yes

Video calls: Yes

Messaging: Text and photos

How it works: Other than the general ability to message and call people, Google Hangouts' main attraction is conference calling: it lets you add several people on a voice call or video call.

How to find someone: Hangouts lets you search for people, returning a general list of Hangouts users. It suggests users in your Google account ecosystem, including Gmail correspondents and Google Plus circles.

6. Skype

Phone calls: Yes

Video calls: Yes

Messaging: Yes

How it works: The original 'free internet call' service, Skype now lets you do a lot more even if it's not used as much as most of its rivals for messaging. Once you set up an account (on or downloading an app), you can use it on a PC, phone or tablet. It also has quite a lot of extra 'premium' features, such as an answering machine service.

How to find someone: Skype lets you search for people based on their username, email address or actual real name. If it's the name you enter, it will return a list of people you might be looking for.

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