What IsOTT Messaging?
OTT, or over-the-top, messaging refers to a form of text-based communication that delivers and receives messages using an internet service.
This is a technology that overrides the traditional delivery system. Applications that leverage OTT have gained popularity around the world. This is due to its accessibility to anyone with a smart mobile device and a WiFi connection. Besides personal use, OTT messaging has also become a common communication method for businesses and organizations.
What Does OTT Mean in Texting?
In texting and online communication, "OTT" stands for "Over The Top." It's often used to describe services or content that are delivered directly to users over the internet. Essentially, they bypass traditional distribution methods like cable or satellite television. The term "OTT text" means that these services are delivered over the top of existing internet connections without the need for specialized infrastructure.
Benefits of OTT Messaging
With OTT instant messengers, users can communicate with their contacts for free or at a much lower cost than SMS.
The global user base of OTT messaging platforms allows users to connect with contacts across different countries without incurring international charges.
Most OTT texting apps have end-to-end encryption, which means only the sender and recipient can see the messages.
OTT platforms allow for instant conversations in real-time, making it possible to chat with others regardless of location.
OTT apps are easy to use, often with intuitive navigation and customization options.
Read Receipts and Typing Indicators
Instant messaging apps have features that indicate when the recipient sees the message and if they’re typing a response.
Users have the option to share multimedia content, including photos, videos, documents, and audio clips.
Group chats are another benefit of OTT messengers, making it easy for business teams to collaborate and share updates.
Difference Between OTT and SMS Messaging
Communicating via SMS requires a phone signal. OTT services, on the other hand, rely on an internet connection to send and receive messages and multimedia. And while a phone number is necessary for SMS messaging, that’s not always the case with internet-based apps. For example, WhatsApp requires a phone number, whereas Facebook Messenger doesn’t.
When it comes to global reach, both OTT and SMS generally do well, except for a couple of conditions. SMS users can easily reach international markets if they use a business messaging provider. Otherwise, sending SMS messages abroad comes with restrictions and can be costly.
As for OTT messengers, they are universal, with a total of over three billion users worldwide. The only caveat is that you need the internet for message delivery. And on top of that, the recipient must have the same OTT app installed on their mobile phone.
Moreover, certain instant messengers aren’t available in some countries; China, for example, has banned WhatsApp.
While SMS is the native messaging app on devices, users need to download OTT messaging apps. When it comes to functionality, SMS is rather basic. On the other hand, instant messengers offer features like read receipts, larger file-size capabilities, and advanced customization features.
With SMS, you're limited to 160 characters; you can only send GIFs, videos, and other media via MMS. Users can send links through SMS, but previews aren’t available. Despite the restrictions, SMS is ideal for a variety of communications like alerts, reminders, and confirmations.
Platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Viber allow users to send messages that are significantly longer than SMS. There aren’t any notable limits, but certain apps have a maximum character length because of technical limitations. In most cases, these limits don’t hinder communications at all.
The go-to choice for mass texting is SMS, as long as you opt for a service with security measures. Most top OTT messaging apps—WhatsApp being one of them—tend to discourage bulk messaging. However, they come in handy for group chats, as opposed to SMS, which isn’t ideal for that purpose.
Privacy and Regulation
Various privacy and data protection laws govern A2P SMS communications to reduce spam and safeguard consumers’ personal information. This isn’t the case with OTT messaging, which has resulted in a few controversies in the past. But nowadays, most instant messaging services tend to be more transparent about how they handle user data. And although laws like the General Data Protection Regulation don’t specifically mention OTT applications, many of the providers prefer to comply with privacy regulations.
When it comes to SMS text messaging, users are charged per text sent. In comparison, OTT texting is virtually free as long as the device has an internet connection or mobile data. One exception is when you use the business version of certain OTT apps like Viber for Business. In this case, a cost per text applies in addition to setup and subscription fees.
Top OTT Instant Messaging Platforms
WhatsApp is among the most popular OTT platforms in the world. Besides texting capabilities, it also offers group chats, multimedia sharing, voice and video calls, as well as end-to-end encryption. Its user-friendliness, massive user base, and API integration capability make the Meta-owned app quite popular. On top of that, it also has a version for business purposes: WhatsApp Business.
Viber is another OTT messaging platform that provides a range of capabilities like texting, video calling, and group chats. Additional features include GIFs, stickers, and public communities. Conversations on Viber are end-to-end encrypted to ensure user privacy.
As a part of Facebook’s social media platform, Facebook Messenger lets users communicate with their in-app contacts. Users get access to a range of functions like texting, group conversations, video calls, payment options, and more.
Widely used in China, WeChat is a highly versatile app that combines messaging with social networking, mobile payments, and more. It facilitates texting, multimedia sharing, voice calls, video calls, Moments, and services like online shopping and ride-hailing.
Known for its emphasis on privacy and security, Telegram provides various features like self-destructing messages, cloud-based storage, and secret chats with end-to-end encryption. The app supports texting, multimedia, group chats, and channels for broadcasting to massive audiences.
Instagram Direct Messenger
Instagram Direct Messenger is the texting feature that’s within the Instagram app. It allows for texting and sharing multimedia content with groups or individuals. The feature is integrated into the platform, making it easy to communicate with followers.
Use Cases of OTT Instant Messaging in Business
Promotional messages: Using apps like WhatsApp and Viber, businesses can send promotional messages like offers and discounts while leveraging multimedia features.
Alerts and notifications: OTT messaging can be useful for sending account alerts, order updates, and other timely notifications.
Appointment reminders: Clinics, beauty salons, banks, and other service-based businesses can use OTT applications to remind patients or customers about their appointments.
Sales interactions: OTT apps make it easy to carry out sales interactions in real time, allowing brands to answer questions and guide shoppers through the buying process.
Confirmations: Delivering reservation details, order confirmations, and booking confirmations via OTT messaging channels helps in building trust with customers.
Customer support: Customers can conveniently reach out to businesses for assistance, troubleshooting, and other matters via WhatsApp, Instagram, or other apps.
Two-factor authentication: OTT platforms often serve as a backup for sending 2FA passcodes in case SMS text delivery fails.
Feedback requests: Channels like Facebook Messenger can be ideal for requesting feedback from customers after a purchase or interaction.