Nobody wants 'federation' of mobile messaging, says PayPal

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Nobody wants "federation" of messaging services despite talk of creating inter-operability, according to PayPal's next generation commerce chief Harper Reed.

Reed cast doubt on his fellow panelists' arguments for removing silos from messaging services during a discussion on "the future of messaging" at Mobile World Congress.

He highlighted Google abandoning the XMMP open standard for instant messaging as proof.

Google abandoning XMMP in favor of a move to its Hangouts technology represented a switch from open protocols to proprietary ones, and was perceived by some as a step backward for users. 

The messaging industury not fully embracing open protocols makes it harder for users to communicate between platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat, requiring users to have multiple messaging apps. 

Reed said: "I think this is a fake conversation. I don’t think anyone wants federation—we don’t see success with federation."

He argued the success of WhatsApp and WeChat proves that once a platform achieves success it is keen to keep that success to itself.

Reed said: "As an engineer who spent a lot of time in the early 2000s focusing on federation and inter-operability it is kind of rich hearing this being said now when each of us specifically turned this off. So what do we do?"

Mitali Dhar, director of global product partnerships at Google, believes that there is a different approach taken by the West compared to the East, but the West is beginning to take a different attitude.

Dhar said: "When you think about what is happening in Asia there was a desire to get all your services on one platform.

"In the West we have a different approach with lots of different app and websites, and the portal concept back in the 90s was disintermediated into all these services. We will bring a lot of learnings from APAC into how we want to make it work in the West."

She added that Google attempts to cater to its users "no matter what platform them are on."

Matt Assey, vice president of mobile at Adobe, concluded the "brutally difficult problem" requires more "smart engineers" working on it.

He said: "The thing we learned from first iteration of mobile apps is that building silos does not work for customers or the brands, and if we do the exact same thing for chatbots and messaging apps then we are no better off than we were before."