A universal chat is a single, centralized chat service or platform that every internet user is part of, much like a ubiquitous social media network or email service. It facilitates communication among all its users without them needing to be on separate platforms or use different applications.
Asia has multiple universal chats, depending on the region.
- WeChat (China). Developed by Tencent, WeChat is more than just a messaging app; it's a complete social ecosystem. As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, WeChat was the most popular app in China, with over a billion active users. WeChat offers features like text messaging, voice, and video calls, a news feed (similar to Facebook's), mini-programs (small apps that run within WeChat itself), and WeChat Pay, allowing users to make digital payments.
- KakaoTalk (Korea). Developed by Kakao Corporation, KakaoTalk is a free mobile instant messaging application for smartphones with free text and free call features. It is the dominant messaging app in Korea, used by a vast majority of smartphone users in the country. In addition to messaging and calling, it offers various services such as digital payments (KakaoPay), a news feed, music streaming, and even taxi-hailing.
- Line (Japan). Developed by Naver, a Korean search portal, Line is widely used in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. In addition to messaging and free calls, it includes a timeline to share photos, statuses, and comments. It also has Line Pay for payments and additional features like Line Music, Line Taxi, and various games.
In the EU, it's slightly more complicated. Most people use WhatsApp.
- WhatsApp. Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp is a free messaging app available for Android and other smartphones. It uses the internet to let you message and call friends and family, so you don't have to pay for every message or call.
- Facebook Messenger. Also owned by Facebook, Messenger is a messaging platform that allows for text messages, voice calls, and video calls to people on the Facebook platform.
- Viber. Owned by the Japanese company Rakuten, Viber is a free messaging and calling app that provides a secure connection, high-quality calls, and the ability to send texts, photos, and videos.
In the Americas, there is no such universal chat app. Younger generations use iMessage, while elderlies use WhatsApp. Or often, everyone sticks to texting.
- iMessage. This is a built-in messaging service on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It supports text messages, photos, videos, and other types of content. However, it only works between Apple devices, which is a limitation if you're trying to communicate with someone who uses an Android phone or a Windows PC.
On the direct messages aspect,
- Matrix Network. Used by Beeper. Beeper aims to build a Matrix bridge for all social networks.
- MLS. Backed by Google and IETF.
- RCS. Backed by Google and Samsung.
More on the social network aspect,
- AT protocol. Initially proposed by Jack Dorsey from Twitter, but after the Musk-Twitter Incident, Dorsey founded Bluesky. AT Protocol is actively maintained by Bluesky.
- ActivityPub protocol: Backed by Threads (Service) and Mastodon.