Twitter upgrades its direct messaging service, but is it preparing for a battle against WhatsApp?

Nassos Stylianou
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Is Twitter preparing to challenge WhatsApp as a messaging app? (Source: Getty)

Twitter looks like it is preparing a serious bid to take on Facebook-owned WhatsApp in the battle of the messaging apps.

The social network is improving the features that its direct messaging tool offers, the company said in a tweet today, a sign that it was attempting to enhance its status as a chat application.

Direct messages, private communication sent via Twitter to one of your followers, like tweets, are restricted to 140 characters and there is no indication that this will change. However, the plans could be an indication that Twitter is focusing on growing the capabilities of its direct messaging features.

The San Francisco-based social network announced that it would be updating the iPhone and Android apps to allow users to access their entire DM history as well as improving the consistency across web and mobile platforms.The company was working on "back-end elements" of its messaging system in an upgrade process that would be expected to take a few weeks.

Facebook's $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp in February this year has put the spotlight on messaging apps and their potential value. Twitter however has not progressed as rapidly with updates to its direct messaging platform as some had expected, especially given its large user base and existing messaging feature within the application, as opposed to other apps like Telegram that have launched from scratch in a bid to eat into the burgeoning market.

In the first quarter of 2014, the 140-character microblogging site had a total of 255m active users, a metric used to count those who log into the service at least once a month, with 500m tweets sent per day. The worrying statistic from its previous quarterly report was that timeline views stayed below their 2013 peak and the rate of active user growth was dropping.

According to a Wall Street Journal report a few days ago, Twitter is set to unveil four new different metrics in its second quarter report published at the end of the month in an effort to "measure the breadth of the audience that is exposed to Twitter's content but not logged in". Twitter had declined to comment on the report.

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