At Layer we are building the open communications Layer for the internet. A building block that developers can use to add communications to their products, in a simple way, while maintaining full control of the experience.

By definition, communication requires a source (sender), a message, a channel, and a destination (recipient). The matchmaking process, the content, and the purpose of the communication define the product. All three of these components can be built around the communications building block.

When we introduced Layer we showcased a simple demo application focused around sending text and photo messages in a basic chat interface, initiated from an address book of contacts. While that is the use case most people think about when we mention communications as part of an application, the use cases we’re seeing built are way beyond that.

One of Layer’s main strengths is that it supports any type of message: text, photos, voice messages, video messages, location updates, meta-data or any other type of payload sent as part of the communication.

Communication interfaces take different forms for different purposes. It is exciting to see all the innovation happening on this front. Let’s look at a few examples of communication-based products that are very different from a typical mobile messaging product.

Single Notification app

Lately we’ve seen a few really interesting concepts that use the notification as the only interface for the delivery of a message. There is no full view of the conversation or history, but the utility of a communication tool remains.

Apps that use notifications as their primary interface (non-apps?) can easily be built and scaled on Layer. All you have to do as a developer is come up with a great interface to compose and address the message (or not). Layer handles the rest – delivering the message to all the devices of the recipient and triggering notifications.

Picture talking

A picture is worth a thousand words. Photos make it easy to reveal how you are feeling, where are you and who’s around you. A picture is easy to create – way easier than typing a message. Every picture that is sent creates a notification, and that leads to engagement. On the recipient’s side, it is easy and entertaining to consume. And just as easy to discard. It’s no wonder we’ve seen a lot of movement in the photo messaging space. While most of the experimentation is around the interface, interaction, and experience, there is ton of work to be done to send and deliver messages well. As a developer you need to take care of the sending/uploading, delivering a push notification, and finally downloading the content on the other side.

Content in context

Private sharing is massive. According to analysts, more than 60% of sharing is done in private conversations. Those conversations used to happen off-network, with no real content context. Today we see products that bring private conversations (not comments) into the context of an experience, leveraging existing content as a conversation starter. An illustrative example of this trend is reading applications, where I can have a conversation about a paragraph with a friend (or group of friends) reading the same book. Because the conversation is in context, we can see the paragraph, the highlights, and notes right in the conversation instead of having to copy paste them back and forth into a horizontal “messaging” product. The focus of the product experience is still reading, but communications around that content enrich the experience. There should be no compromises around that part of the product.

Meta-messaging

Ride-sharing products are a nice example of meta-messaging. Technology-powered experiences that facilitate communication between drivers and passengers, and enable easy transactions in exchange for value (a ride). If you dissect a ride sharing product, you might notice there are three main building blocks required to build it: a map, payments, and communications. The map stack is used to show cars and the passenger on the map, and the payments stack is used to process the payment. At the core, the communications stack is the most crucial part, sending location between a group of drivers (geofenced) to a passenger before the ride, and a single driver to passenger once the ride is confirmed. The messages in this communication are never surfaced as a typical chat. These messages get displayed in a very different way, contextual to the experience and problem that is being solved.

Layer is built to cover these kinds of use cases in a very simple way. You can send any payload, and we’ll do the rest, including the delivery of content and all the work around triggering notifications. Building blocks are already important in applications today and will become much more important in the world of tomorrow where creative teams of all sizes can focus on building amazing experiences and products. We can’t wait to see what these developers and product designers come up with.