Abstract and Keywords
In the early development of the smartphone ecosystem, Mobile Instant Messaging applications were to play a complementary role to that of the Short Message Service. The evolution of mobile platforms, however, has pushed them far beyond the limits of individual single-message functionalities. Thanks to their unprecedented adoption, chat apps have contributed to changing the fabric of everyday mobile-mediated interactions. They also play a crucial role in the expansion strategy of social media–related mobile ecosystem players. The functional evolution of chat apps and their social adoption is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, with communicational, symbolic, economic, and social-structural implications. On the basis of the limited research literature and reports on chat apps in the mobile communication environment, this chapter examines the recent evolution of mobile messaging apps in a fivefold dimension that marks out different but complementary research fields: (1) the affordances derived from their growing functional complexity, (2) the impact of this functional diversification in mobile-mediated social interaction dynamics, (3) the increasing interest of chat apps as a flow for media and marketing communications, (4) their growing importance in the mobile platform ecosystem, and (5) the critical approach to mobile instant messaging as a new form of affect-based free labor.
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