After 20 years, Yahoo Messenger will shut down

When Oath, the holding company that owns what’s left of the digital pioneer, announced it would discontinue Yahoo Messenger, the internet erupted in a fit of nostalgia.

Alongside ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger — which Oath shuttered last year — Yahoo Messenger was one of the original chat apps of the late ‘90s and early ’00s. It helped spark countless teenage flirtations and popularized many messaging hallmarks, like emojis and stickers.

It’s also a relic of chat’s early days, which are officially coming to an end.

A tough nut to crack 🐿

Yahoo Messenger has been in decline for a while, lapped by mobile-first messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, along with workplace chat platforms like Slack.

Oath is funneling users toward Yahoo Squirrel, a group messaging app it previewed last month. This suggests it may be targeting the Slacks of the world more than the WhatsApps and WeChats.

It also shows Oath understands people today are squirrelly about privacy. The key to Squirrel is that access is invite-only and doesn’t require users to share their contacts, as TechCrunch reports:

That is a critical detail, given both Yahoo’s reputation in the wake of its massive data breach a couple of years ago; and the fact that some may now be turning off to just how much data messaging-dominant platforms like Facebook might have about you, starting with your contacts.

The telecoms strikes back? ☎️

Oath is owned by Verizon and “it’s the telcos of the world whose revenues have been cannibalized in part by over-the-top messaging services,” TechCrunch notes.

Indeed, the threat of OTTs encroaching on the $55 billion-plus A2P messaging market is a key reason many telcos are rallying around Google’s efforts to establish RCS as a new text messaging standard. This model involves charging businesses for sending stuff like receipts, notifications and alerts to customers, currently via SMS.

Yahoo Messenger has been on the brink for years, but those of us who came of age at the dawn of the IM era are pouring one out for the messaging wars’ latest casualty. 🥃

Chatbots are dead. Long live chatbots.

Like the web, mobile apps and vinyl records, chatbots have been declared dead countless times only to prove very much alive (in that non-sentient way).

In April, Tech Republic blamed a lack of AI for why “basically no one uses chatbots.” Last week GrowthBot's Justin Lee singled out the “hype cycle” itself for inflating our expectations.

Meanwhile, The Information reports that bot development on Facebook Messenger is on the rise, and the Walmart-incubated Jetblack is threatening to make chatbots mainstream.

But what if bots are still falling short because we’ve been keeping them in the dark?

Context will save the bots 🤖

Writing for The Next Web, Smooch CTO Mike Gozzo draws on his own family story to explain the importance of context in designing meaningful chatbot experiences for customers.

What if a bot was informed not only by what’s being said in real time, Mike asks, but what’s happening around it? Because “like body language, sometimes what hasn’t been said is just as crucial.”

If a bot had access to both conversation history and metadata it could tailor its responses accordingly and pass on the info to a human agent, CRM or other software:

We need to think about every customer touchpoint across every channel as an opportunity to map out their identities to form a picture of who that person is and what they care about. This isn’t to sell them more stuff — it’s about helping them solve whatever problem or do whatever job they came to us to help them with.

Check out Mike’s full piece in The Next Web.