MessageMe, which is dueling in the hyper-competitive messaging app war with backing from Greylock Partners and other top VCs, is adding a web client and overhauling its ID system in a bid to boost user engagement.
The app, which has 8 million registered users, is adding a way for web users to constantly stay in touch with friends on mobile devices. It’s a web-based client that should help it keep up with the stickiness of competitors like Facebook and its standalone Facebook Messenger.
As you would expect, the web-based app synchronizes chats across mobile devices and web.
It also — like the MessageMe mobile app — makes it easy to drag and drop photos in, send YouTube videos and play animated GIFs. (But GIFs unfortunately don’t play in the mobile app, although it’s a much requested feature.) The popular doodling feature is also incorporated in.
They’re also overhauling the ID feature, which used to mimic Blackberry’s old messenger system where users got ID numbers. Instead, they’re adding basic usernames, like what you’d see on other chat apps like Tencent’s WeChat or on Facebook, which went on to offer vanity usernames.
“We’re making it easier for people to claim their usernames, search for and identify one another with understandable IDs,” said COO Ali Rosenthal.
The changes come as MessageMe faces a plethora of well-funded challengers across the globe like Japan’s Line, Tencent’s WeChat, the venerable WhatsApp and Facebook. MessageMe’s reach is strongest in countries like Russia, the U.S. and the Middle East. They see more than 2 million photos and stickers sent per day in the U.S.
“We’re not first movers in this market. It’s very competitive and crowded,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many players and there’s a willingness on part of the average consumer to try different experiences, especially if the ones they’re having aren’t sticky enough.”
She said that one area MessageMe will be moving in is toward better group messaging, since that seems to be something that users really actively engage in and could differentiate the product more. MessageMe has about half a million active groups with an average of 15 per each group.