Evolution of communication: What’s next?

10 min readJul 24, 2017


Unless you’ve been living under a bridge recently…

…you’ve heard of GIFs (even though you’d still have no clue how to properly say it). And you’d have noticed that they sneaked into Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, and almost every messaging app you can think of… God damn it they’re everywhere!

…But why?

Those are just pictures… that moves… and don’t talk…What about it?

Well, There’s more to it than you think and if you read this article until the end, you’ll find out just like this guy did:

Mind blown: You later on

“Why should I care? Will that help me get paid, get made or get laid? What is that communication thing anyway?” — You

Glad you ask! Yes.



As of today most two popular apps categories are:

Messaging apps surpassed social networks. But they are both “communication”.

#1 Messaging apps (Messenger, Whatsapp, Snapchat, iMessage, Viber…)

#2 Social networking (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat)

They’re both communication really:

  • Messaging apps = 1 to 1.
  • Social networking apps = 1 to many.

Communication is broader than you might think. In fact this very blog could be considered as ‘communication’:

  • I’m writing down ideas that you parse and absorb in your own head (Granted there’s often loss of signal in the process).
  • Most websites are about communicating their ‘brand’. Using a combination of visuals, text, medias, sounds…
  • Videos are communicating ideas, and stories…

So if “communication” is a more than we think…


Communication is merely the process of passing information from one brain to an other. Or one brain to many others. That’s it.

If you think in those terms many things are “communication”.

You probably heard of “visual communication”, or “body language” or “sign language”. Those should give you clues that communication can take many forms.

Words simply are the main communication paradigm of the day.

Language is the innovation that allowed humans to express their thoughts. And when you look at language structures all over the world, there are certain rules that follow a similar pattern. All have nouns, verbs & adjectives.

Those are the basic structures of the articulation of ideas.

In other words:

Language is the technology of “sharing the content of the mind”.

Different forms of communication transmit different things:

WORDS: Abstract units of thoughts. They’re particularly good at conveying meaning and ideas. By as we learnt they might not be the best option for everything.

MUSIC/SOUND: Good at communicating emotions and intent. You can ‘feel’ someone’s intention by the sound and intonation of their voice. A great singer can move you deeply. A great speaker can take you on a journey.

BODY LANGUAGE/VISUALS: visual communication is particularly good to integrate a lot of data rapidly. Think that it’s easier to make sense of a graph than read the raw data itself. That’s the whole idea behind Data visualization, and why it’s so popular nowadays. We also analyse the intention of someone by looking at their face expression in a heartbeat.

In fact words are rather abstract, and not a ‘natural’ way our brains process information. The natural way our brain thinks in ‘pictures’.

You’ve heard this before.

So it’s only logical that as our technology evolve we adopt new and more efficient communication means, such as images.

In fact, amongst Humanity’s first attempt to write down ‘ideas’ were ideograms or hieroglyphs.

They were just rather slow & inefficient means… Imagine having to carve high resolution pictograms every time… (And then we complain iOS keyboard is slow)

Imagine how long it must have taken to carve that stuff? And It took me roughly 33 seconds to grab it from Google Images and paste it here.

A logical next step was a much easier & lighter format that’s easy to write down like… the paper/ink combo for the format, and abstract symbols that combines into words for writing.

If you think of paper and ink as a portable technology that helped humanity spread ideas around easily, you understand the value of that innovation.

A Typewriter, a computer, a smartphone are merely logical evolutions of it. And as our mediums change, the form does too.


Our inclination for communication is what made us who we are.

In fact It’s our biggest evolutionary advantage. Our intelligence would probably come only second to it…

The evidence for that would lie with Neanderthals, who had larger brains than our descendants “Homo Sapiens”.

And to remind you that we won the evolutionary battle:

We’re still around, they’re not.

There are have been a few theories around as to why, but it seems that our capacity for communication and development of culture is what allowed us to win that evolutionary battle.

Language allowed us to coordinate our actions, and that’s how we owned them.

Take that Neanderthal!

Homo Sapiens: 24.000+ years of pwning.

Fast forward to the modern exponential evolution of communication.


Emoticons are much older than you think! 200+ years in the making.

In fact they can be traced to the printing press era in the 1800s. Learn more.

But the accepted official origin is attributed to Professor Scott Fahlman, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who sent an email to a computer bulletin board at 11:44am on 19 September 1982, a Sunday:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


Whenever something is missing in the world humans find workarounds, Emoticons are one of those. They allowed us to express emotions in a more economical manner using special character keys.

And the fact people used it even with its shortcomings (those faces are sideways) shows the strong need for people to communicate efficiently.

This practice of typing emoticons paved the ways in the 90s for…


Emojis were created by “Shigetaka Kurita” for Docomo. As it was difficult to express yourselves in the 250 characters the Pocket Bell allowed for.

Emojis were designed for NTT DoCoMo’s launch of the i-mode in 1999. Learn more.

This is what the first emoji looked like.
Original sketches for the first emoji set, based on Japanese pictograms and anime.

Today emojis look more like that:

Most popular emoji as of 2017

And this is how millenials in a recent survey describe themselves:

Maybe I’m shit but I’m happy.

“Maybe I’m shit but I’m happy.”

The problem with emojis is that it is managed by the unicode consortium and have a predefined and therefore limited set of them. They also are made at keyboard characters size. Those limitations paved the way for…


Stickers have two advantages. They don’t have to be embedded in text like emojis and therefore can be larger and more detailed. Express more subtle or richer emotions or even relationships between people.

Line stickers. Symbolizing the relationship between chill male (Bear) & emotional female (Rabbit)

They originate again in 2011 in Japan by the company “Line”, a spin off a Korean company. Today Stickers are getting richer, and animated.

One of the companies that understood well the desire for people to express themselves visually is BitMoji. Allowing you to create an avatar of your own self to express ideas and emotions. It’s a great proxy to literally put more of you into your conversations.

It’s fair to say it was a great success.

The company got bought for more that $100 Million dollars by Snapchat.

If you think about what Snapchat actually is, it’s about a completely new form of communication, Communicating moments, not just ideas. It’s a brand new form of non-verbal communication that didn’t exist before. No matter adults don’t get it much. It’s far too much of a conceptual leap!

You can see the trend here. We’re going towards richer and richer type of communication which led recently to the new craze of…


Gifs nowadays are considered mainly as a short form silent looping video. But they were around already 30 years ago, as a format that was easy to embed on a web page, had transparency and could loop.

Basically there were there to allow you to do that kind of thing: http://www.cameronsworld.net/

It’s only recently with advances in messaging apps, better user experience, virtually free rich-content messaging (Remember when you had to pay for SMS? Oh boy!) and higher bandwidth that GIFs penetrated messaging and social media. As you might have noticed, they’re readily accessible now on Twitter, Facebook, Messenger… with the tap of a button.

A company like Giphy (Which is basically just a GIF search engine) in January 2016 was valued at $300 Million and in October 2016 $600 Million.

Giphy’s CEO on his company’s valuation.

It’s fair to say the demand for those is pretty high.



  1. It’s about precision….

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

A picture can convey a whole lot more informations in much less time. It’s much more instant means of receiving an emotional information. Our eyes are hard wired to read facial expressions.

Beside if a picture worth a 1000 words…

…how many words does 3 seconds at 12fps worth?

OMG! This article make me think so hard

2. and emotion…

No matter how good you are with your face at expressing emotions you can’t beat professionals :

Cats. Conveyors of “wtf” since forever since the internet.

3. …and entertainment.

Suddenly instead of being a super-boring human being, you’re a “Lolz” super-hero. Something you never though you could be …

If we like our friends, we want to make them happy, and GIFs are a great way of adding entertainment to communication…

And that’s great! Who doesn’t love putting a smile on someone’s face?

A friend who just received a particularly funny GIF

As you can see the the growth of GIFs and rich forms of communication is quite remarkable… so… What’s next?…


Here are some ideas about what could be coming next.


Yeah? Where is sound?

For some people GIFs are broken videos with no sound.

Although sound can be disruptive when you’re in a social context, it is amazing at conveying emotions in a manner that visuals just cannot.

That’s what we try to do here at Emoticast.

Couldn’t paste our own embed code yet in here but imagine adding the dimension of sounds to your GIFs:

Lolz are more contagious with sound.

And here’s what happen if you combine a GIF with the relevant music:

Rocky cat.

Tunemoji started on mobile, moving towards native integrations on messaging apps and is now spreading on the web.

We think sound is a logical next step in ever richer communication forms, and music is particularly good for emotions (Happy, energetic, sad, angry, cheeky…).

But there are even richer forms of communication…

2. VR/AR

A logical next step could be VR/AR. Which is basically an emulation of “face to face” communication. Once the hardware becomes ubiquitous one can see how this can enrich traditional ‘skype’ sessions or ‘teleconferences’.

It probably won’t replace messaging tomorrow, but will provide for really immersive and deeper live conversations.

That’s what Facebook is trying to do next with their social VR.


Now that’s where it gets freaky.

Seems like we’re constantly trying to match the richness of Face to Face conversation. But it could be that using ever better technology we’ll achieve something even richer than face to face communication.

It’s been a human dream for a long time:

Sharing thoughts.

That’s the promise of brain to brain communication and a few people are already working on it. And not random people…

I’m talking Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. Apple is probably working something of the sort in their secret lab too. Who knows…?

It’s happening folks!

The promise of those interfaces is to exchange thoughts directly with a computer and eventually with someone else.

Some basic forms of brain/computer communication are already occurring in healthcare, and will increasingly be used to help understand Locked-in patient.

Facebook is already working on a way to type using your brain.

But the real deal is “Neural Lace”, which I haven’t made my mind yet on whether it’s the best or the worst idea ever.

If you want to hear the why of the “Neural Lace” concept that Elon Musk is championing read this epic article from Wait… but why.

And it involves not non-invasive (OK) but invasive technology (CREEPY).

I’d simply describe it as “freaky but cool”. I like the promise of thinking to get to type or share feelings with other human beings, but I don’t really like stuff being put in my brain. Don’t know about you. I just don’t atm.

That’s all folks!

Maybe there’s even other means of communications we haven’t though of (smell or touch?).

Let me know in a response what you think could be coming next. But one thing is sure: Whoever figures it out first is gonna be the new king of oil:

Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat… What’s next?




A Human being who likes to make sense of everything.