iMessage apps are now a thing. Now, there's even an iMessage app store. The product that was just a modern day version of Blackberry Messenger for ardent iPhone fans has become a development ecosystem that lets third party software developers create experiences within iMessage (under the tight supervision and guidelines set by Apple, of course). Apple's newest operating system, iOS 10, debuted apps that can run inside the iMessage chat system. Early access was granted to companies like Venmo, Weather Channel, Opentable and Airbnb. Users can now send money, weather forecasts, book restaurants and vacation lodgings, all from within iMessage.

A Broken Airbnb Experience

The opportunity to improve the home rental experience on Airbnb through an integration with iMessage was clear as day for the unicorn company. Users were sharing listings with friends over text and commenting back and forth until they arrived at a decision. However, Airbnb's team identified a problem. The user experience on Airbnb is full of pictures and data points. Over text, that data evaporates and users are forced to tap in between text and the Airbnb app to refresh their memory about which particular listing they're talking about, Which broke up the user experience and Airbnb was determined to solve this problem .

Apple's Platform Prowess

Apple's move to turn iMessage into a development platform is not surprising. WeChat in Asia has experienced massive success turning its messaging platform into a development platform, letting users book cabs, order clothes, and so much more,. all directly from the messaging app. Facebook Messenger is growing similar capabilities.

iMessage is one of the most popular apps for all iPhone users. Both personal and professional lives are conducted on the app, so it made perfect sense for Apple to turn the app into a platform. At Applico, we define a platform as a business model that enables the exchange of value between a third party network of producers of value (software developers in this particular example) and consumers (me and you). Apple is the world's largest company and its platform businesses include the App Store, iOS, Healthkit and now iMessage. Apple sits in the middle and creates the infrastructure that enables producers to exchange value with consumers. In other words, Apple is an intermediary. And remember, the reason the world's five most valuable companies are in the top five is not technology; rather, it's their platform business model that is responsible. It pays to be in the middle.

An Improved Airbnb App

Based on a post by the mobile team at Airbnb on Medium, the platform's product, design and engineering teams started prototyping on the iMessage framework a few week before its release. Soon they had a new app that let users share homes between friends and view key details about the accommodation within iMessage. The key information presented to users is price, photos, location, host information, and house details. There is also voting contained within the app so that users can vote on homes they like and see who else has voted on them. Be sure to download the new Airbnb app on the App Store and check out our book on platforms, Modern Monopolies.