Media & Entertainment

Is Amazon working on a new messaging app called Anytime?


Image Credits: Aniwhite (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window)

Messaging apps today are one of the most popular ways consumers communicate today, not just with each other but, increasingly, with businesses and services. Now there are signs that we could see another big player enter the messaging fray, alongside more established services from Facebook, Snapchat, Wechat and more.

Amazon appears to be sounding out the market on a new service called Anytime, a full-featured, standalone messaging app for smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart watches designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services like music and food ordering (and other shopping), and interact with businesses.

The company has been running a survey getting feedback on the new app, according to AFTV News, which has published screenshots detailing the Anytime name and some of the features, provided by a user who claimed to have received the survey.

The description in the survey notes that the app would also allow people to connect to each other without needing to know their phone numbers — a common connector among other messaging apps like WhatsApp or Viber. “Reach all your friends just using their name. No numbers needed,” it notes.

One thing to flag is that one of the survey’s pages shared by AFTV also contains a typo in a section describing privacy on the app: “Keep chats private and encryt important messages,” it reads. This could point to this either not being a real survey from Amazon, or someone in Amazon’s market research team failing to run a spell check. It wouldn’t be Amazon’s first typo.

We have reached out to Amazon to ask about all of this. The company has acknowledged the question but has not provided a response. In the meantime, we’ve looked around and can’t find any clues on the internet so far that point to the existence of Anytime.

However, the idea of Amazon launching a consumer messaging app is not that far-fetched. There are a number of reasons why:

For starters, Amazon has already been building messaging services, both for enterprises and consumers.

On the enterprise front, the company’s AWS division released a communications service called Chime earlier this year that includes both messaging and videoconferencing features. The app is built in part using technology that Amazon picked up through its acquisition of talent and technology from a few different startups, including videoconferencing app Biba and meeting productivity service Do.

Interestingly, as we noted at the time that we uncovered proof of the Biba acquisition, the company could easily use the technology for enterprise services (and it appears that it has), but there was a chance it could also find its way into consumer products as well. This could be one of those products.

Also notable is the fact that Amazon has already started to dip its toes into consumer communications, namely with Alexa Calling.

As we pointed out when the free calling and messaging service was launched in May, we thought it was notable that Amazon was from the start expanding the communications experience outside of the Echo-device ecosystem: people could also use their Alexa apps — on smartphones and other hardware — to communicate with each other.

It makes a lot of sense that Amazon would develop a more focused, standalone messaging experience as a progression of that.

There is also Amazon’s long game to consider. Back in 1998, nearly 20 years ago, Amazon acquired a startup out of Boston called PlanetAll, which might best be described as a very early predecessor to Facebook (right down to the Harvard pedigree).

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, at the time noted that PlanetAll was “the most innovative use of the Internet I’ve seen… It’s simply a breakthrough in doing something as fundamental and important as staying in touch. The reason PlanetAll has over 1.5 million members–and is growing even faster than the Internet–is simple: it creates extraordinary value for its users. I believe PlanetAll will prove to be one of the most important online applications.”

Wise words, considering what Facebook has come to represent in our world today. However, Amazon ended up shutting down PlanetAll in 2000, incorporating some of its recommendation technology into its Marketplace.

Notably, it has held on to PlanetAll’s social networking patents (as well as the redirection to What we are seeing now could be one of Amazon’s moves to reenter into this space.

There are other hints we’ve had at TC that there has been a larger social network strategy underway at Amazon. One tip we got in 2016 sums it up: “Someone needs to do some investigating on Amazon’s new top-secret social media platform that is said to rival Facebook,” it read. “This is not Goodreads, this is something totally different that will integrate with Amazon.” (Amazon never replied to our request for comment at the time we got that tip.)

I speculated in May that Alexa Calling could have been related to this; Anytime (or whatever the app’s name may be) could be, too.

There are also other precedents here that are worth noting. Rakuten — described as the “Amazon of Japan” by some — acquired its own messaging app, Viber, in 2014. Viber is now working on more integrations with other Rakuten services, including shopping recommendations.

Messaging services have evolved a ton over the last couple of years, and now are used for much more than simple text messaging and free calls. Facebook and apps out of Asia like Line and WeChat have led the charge with new features like AI-based bots for users communicate with businesses and to pick up information, and ways to buy items, play games and more.

Amazon has had mixed success with social selling (whatever happened to #AmazonCart?) but all the same, my guess is that it doesn’t want to lose ownership of whatever customer transactions may be happening on these platforms. Having its own messaging service — an extension of the conversations users are already having with Amazon via Alexa on the Echo — would let it create more tightly integrated experiences, such as group food ordering and group music listening. In keeping with how Amazon has been developing products like the Echo and its Fire tablets, it tries to build in synergy with its other products from the start.

We’ll update this post as we learn more. (And if you know something about Anytime or any of Amazon’s other movements in social, get in touch.)

Update: No response from Amazon, but a reliable source confirms that the company has been working on a new messaging app.

“I have heard it called Anywhere internally for a while,” he said. “Amazon may [instead] try to use the Fire branding. But I think that will not happen. The thing is this is a full on social network type of expansion, with social shopping as a part of it.”

He also added it may be a different name altogether and could encompass other features: Amazon’s Twitch and Alexa teams have been collaborating lately, too, on ways to create more social shopping experiences that involve chatting and video, he noted.

Here’s something else to ponder: when I wrote about Amazon quietly acquiring Biba, I noted that the company it made the transaction under the name “Justin Acquisition” rather than Amazon, and wondered if it was a long-term reference to Amazon building more messaging tools that might play into some of the messaging inroads it has already made with Twitch. The gaming network has been offering a standalone app called Twitch Messenger for some time now.

More TechCrunch

Andreessen Horowitz’s American Dynamism fund has established a new fellowship program aimed at introducing top engineers and technologists to venture investing, a move that could help the firm less obvious…

a16z’s American Dynamism team launches program to introduce technical minds to VC

Another fintech startup, and its customers, has been gravely impacted by the implosion of banking-as-a-service startup Synapse. Copper Banking, a digital banking service aimed at teens, notified its customers on…

Teen fintech Copper had to emergency discontinue its banking, debit products

Autodesk — the 3D tools behemoth — has acquired Wonder Dynamics, a startup that lets creators quickly and easily make complex characters and visual effects using AI-powered image analysis. The…

Autodesk acquires AI-powered VFX startup Wonder Dynamics

Farcaster, a blockchain-based social protocol founded by two Coinbase alumni, announced on Tuesday that it closed a $150 million fundraise. Led by Paradigm, the platform also raised money from a16z…

Farcaster, a crypto-based social network, raised $150M with just 80K daily users

Microsoft announced on Tuesday during its annual Build conference that it’s bringing “Windows Volumetric Apps” to Meta Quest headsets. The partnership will allow Microsoft to bring Windows 365 and local…

Microsoft’s new ‘Volumetric Apps’ for Quest headsets extend Windows apps into the 3D space

The spam reached Bluesky by first crossing over two other decentralized networks: Mastodon and Nostr.

The ‘vote Trump’ spam that hit Bluesky in May came from decentralized rival Nostr

Welcome to TechCrunch Fintech! This week, we’re looking at the continued fallout from Synapse’s bankruptcy, how Layer wants to disrupt SMB accounting, and much more! To get a roundup of…

There’s a real appetite for a fintech alternative to QuickBooks

The company is hoping to produce electricity at $13 per megawatt hour, which would be more than 50% cheaper than traditional onshore wind.

Bill Gates-backed wind startup AirLoom is raising $12M, filings reveal

Generative AI makes stuff up. It can be biased. Sometimes it spits out toxic text. So can it be “safe”? Rick Caccia, the CEO of WitnessAI, believes it can. “Securing…

WitnessAI is building guardrails for generative AI models

It’s not often that you hear about a seed round above $10 million. H, a startup based in Paris and previously known as Holistic AI, has announced a $220 million…

French AI startup H raises $220M seed round

Hey there, Series A to B startups with $35 million or less in funding — we’ve got an exciting opportunity that’s tailor-made for your growth journey! If you’re looking to…

Boost your startup’s growth with a ScaleUp package at TC Disrupt 2024

TikTok is pulling out all the stops to prevent its impending ban in the United States. Aside from initiating legal action against the U.S. government, that means shaping up its…

As a US ban looms, TikTok announces a $1M program for socially driven creators

Microsoft wants to put its Copilot everywhere. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft renames its annual Build developer conference to Microsoft Copilot. Hopefully, some of those upcoming events…

Microsoft’s Power Automate no-code platform adds AI flows

Build is Microsoft’s largest developer conference and of course, it’s all about AI this year. So it’s no surprise that GitHub’s Copilot, GitHub’s “AI pair programming tool,” is taking center…

GitHub Copilot gets extensions

Microsoft wants to make its brand of generative AI more useful for teams — specifically teams across corporations and large enterprise organizations. This morning at its annual Build dev conference,…

Microsoft intros a Copilot for teams

Microsoft’s big focus at this year’s Build conference is generative AI. And to that end, the tech giant announced a series of updates to its platforms for building generative AI-powered…

Microsoft upgrades its AI app-building platforms

The U.K.’s data protection watchdog has closed an almost year-long investigation of Snap’s AI chatbot, My AI — saying it’s satisfied the social media firm has addressed concerns about risks…

UK data protection watchdog ends privacy probe of Snap’s GenAI chatbot, but warns industry

U.S. cell carrier Patriot Mobile experienced a data breach that included subscribers’ personal information, including full names, email addresses, home ZIP codes and account PINs, TechCrunch has learned. Patriot Mobile,…

Conservative cell carrier Patriot Mobile hit by data breach

It’s been three years since Spotify acquired live audio startup Betty Labs, and yet the music streaming service isn’t leveraging the technology to its fullest potential — at least not…

Spotify’s ‘Listening Party’ feature falls short of expectations

Alchemist Accelerator has a new pile of AI-forward companies demoing their wares today, if you care to watch, and the program itself is making some international moves into Tokyo and…

Alchemist’s latest batch puts AI to work as accelerator expands to Tokyo, Doha

“Late Pledge” allows campaign creators to continue collecting money even after the campaign has closed.

Kickstarter now lets you pledge after a campaign closes

Stack AI’s co-founders, Antoni Rosinol and Bernardo Aceituno, were PhD students at MIT wrapping up their degrees in 2022 just as large language models were becoming more mainstream. ChatGPT would…

Stack AI wants to make it easier to build AI-fueled workflows

Pinecone, the vector database startup founded by Edo Liberty, the former head of Amazon’s AI Labs, has long been at the forefront of helping businesses augment large language models (LLMs)…

Pinecone launches its serverless vector database out of preview

Young geothermal energy wells can be like budding prodigies, each brimming with potential to outshine their peers. But like people, most decline with age. In California, for example, the amount…

Special mud helps XGS Energy get more power out of geothermal wells

Featured Article

Sonos finally made some headphones

The market play is clear from the outset: The $449 headphones are firmly targeted at an audience that would otherwise be purchasing the Bose QC Ultra or Apple AirPods Max.

8 hours ago
Sonos finally made some headphones

Adobe says the feature is up to the task, regardless of how complex of a background the object is set against.

Adobe brings Firefly AI-powered Generative Remove to Lightroom

All cars suffer when the mercury drops, but electric vehicles suffer more than most as heaters draw more power and batteries charge more slowly as the liquid electrolyte inside thickens.…

Porsche Ventures invests in battery startup South 8 to boost cold-weather EV performance

Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI