If you’re in possession of a connected device somewhere on this planet, it’s increasingly likely that you are a user of Apple’s iOS, Google’s Gmail, or Facebook’s WhatsApp; over the past week each of the three services announced the milestone of reaching 1 billion users. TIME notes that these user bases are matched by other services such as Facebook’s primary app, several Google offerings, Microsoft’s Windows operating system and others.
Think about the scope of that user base – with almost 7.4 billion people on the planet, the access to advanced communications services for even the same billion individuals indicates the phenomenal reach of ICT. But there is further differentiation in where these services are most popular, often based on access models, that underlines a fundamental reality about connectivity – we may never see one service operating in every place, and for every person, on the planet.
My colleague Rodrigo, along with his friends and local colleagues in Brazil, swears by WhatsApp; many of those in my personal circle back in the United States have never heard of it, let alone use it daily (iMessage seems to be de rigeur among the Silicon Valley set). From a more top-down view, Google services are sometimes blocked by a handful of countries, and you can’t access Gmail if it’s been blocked at the IP level.
There’s also the reality that what is popular for a hot second today will drop from the public eye tomorrow. (Remember Peach, the darling of January tech news for just one week?) And particularly as new services are being adopted most rapidly by a fickle teenage demographic, the longevity and broad spread of any one service is not guaranteed.
So can WhatsApp, Gmail and iOS maintain their market share with these numbers? It’s interesting to note they are vastly different means of connecting, perhaps for different generations and most certainly for different network capabilities: an operating system, an email service, and a messaging app.
I have to wonder if the lowest common denominator will become the most common. Will the simple SMS become the one service that first reaches all 7.399 billion (and counting) people of the world?
It’s at least a start. At Ericsson, for example, we focus on finding the benefits of connectivity for all things that can be connected – which in low-capability networks means basic services such as SMS. Or maybe it will be only the most advanced technologies that allow truly ubiquitous communication, like a “20G” network allowing every human on earth (maybe even every animal?) to communicate with one another via brain waves.
Admittedly that’s a scary thought. But it’s clear that when we dream of a means of communicating, we’ll find a way to do it – to the tune of 1 billion and counting.
Maybe brain-to-brain connections aren’t so unlikely after all?