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"GroupMe App" text
Type Messaging Platform
Launch Date 2010
Status Active
Product Line Messaging Service
Platform platform
Website GroupMe

GroupMe is a downloadable instant messaging application for users to communicate both individually or in groups. Designed as a free platform for its users, GroupMe is supported by almost all computers and phones via short message service (SMS) or pop-up notifications through a browser known as push [1].

Users can send and receive messages without cellular data. To start a group chat, users either add individuals via a phone number or through an invite link. The app may sound similar to instant message through a phone’s typical messaging system (such as iMessage), however, users are not charged and up to 500 members are allowed within a given group[2] within each group chat. This exceeds iMessage's maximum group capacity that only allows up to 32 members in a group chat, depending on the user's service provider[3].

Currently owned by Microsoft, GroupMe has evolved to include polls, photo and video customization, and location sharing. GroupMe has given people the freedom to connect and communicate no matter the distance.


GroupMe (then known as was created in 2010 by Steve Martocci and Jared Hecht when they brought their idea of a large group messaging platform to TechCrunch Hackathon. After turning down interested investors, GroupMe officially launched on September 29, 2010 hitting their one-millionth text through the app[4]. By its first birthday, Skype bought GroupMe for $85 million dollars which was later acquired by Microsoft in 2011[5].

Today, GroupMe continues to be a free messaging platform completely funded by Microsoft since there is not a direct revenue stream from its users[6]. As of 2019, GroupMe boasts 10.75 million users in the U.S. alone[7], however this number is predicted to be much larger worldwide.

GroupMe Founders, Steve Martocci and Jared Hecht [8]


Hecht credits his wife with originating the idea for the app-- applying the ‘reply all’ feature in emails to SMS[9]. In its earliest stage, the text messaging interface worked by texting a prompt to a unique phone number, adding your friends to the group number, and texting that number to relay messages to everyone in the group. The platform’s functions were powered by Twilio, another cloud communications platform[10]. The initial application was meant to keep in touch with friends while at music festivals. Thus, GroupMe partnered with festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza to promote the utilization of the app[11]. In the specific geographic area where the event took place, an explosion of users would spread from when it was promoted there[12].


GroupMe had raised zero revenue at the time of its acquisition by Skype. In 2011, the company began exploring monetization by potentially creating sponsored or branded groups that businesses could pay for as a method of advertising[13]. Additionally, it planned to incorporate targeted advertising by identifying keywords in text messages to recommend offers and coupons to users, similar to Google’s strategy with Gmail[14]. However, none of these plans were applied in the long term as GroupMe still continues to be a free service that does not generate revenue.[15]


Personalized Groups

A screenshot of multiple groups in GroupMe

When creating a group, the admin can decide whether it will be a closed or open group. A closed group allows only the admin to add or remove users, change the group name, avatar, and topic. An open group allows all users already in the groupchat to add or remove members, change the group name, avatar and topic[16]. When adding an individual to a group chat, members can add new users to the group manually by adding their number or sending an invite link to the anticipated member.

Photo and Video

Users can send photos and videos within the group chat which will be saved through the chat’s gallery located in the group’s settings. They can also use the 'Media Search' function by clicking the ‘+’ sign when typing which will allow them to search or find a GIF, Image, or Video they can add to the group chat. Users can additionally turn these different media functions into a meme where they can add text to the media of their choice.

Location Sharing

Within each chat, users can send their current location to the other group members. This can be helpful if, for example, they’re getting together and need to know the specific location to meet up. To do this, users can click the ‘+’ icon on the keyboard and choose ‘Location’. If you haven’t shared it before on the platform, GroupMe will ask for your consent and allow you to pick the following options:

  1. Allow once
  2. Allow while using the app
  3. Don’t allow
This can also allow users to see where their friends are at a given time[17].
An example of a poll in GroupMe


Within each group chat on the app, users can send out polls to get a census from all its members. A poll can easily be created by clicking the ‘+’ icon on the keyboard and choosing ‘Poll’. The author can then create a poll question with multiple options members can vote for. There are also customizable features such as setting a date and time when the poll will expire for voting, allowing individuals to pick multiple answers, and having the choice to make it public so members can see which poll option each individual picked.


GroupMe installed a calendar feature in 2015 to help groups create and manage group events[18]. Event organizers can create an event directly within the group chat by using the calendar button on the menu bar. Members can RSVP to the event and organizers can also set custom reminders. The created event along with its date and members’ RSVP responses show up directly in the messaging thread.

Meme Creation

In 2014, GroupMe added the ability to create memes quickly from uploading images. [19]

Ethical Implications

Academic Dishonesty

Ohio State University students were accused of using GroupMe to collaborate on classwork in 2017[20]

Many students use GroupMe for classes to ask general questions and discuss tips for successfully completing the course. [21] However, it has regularly been under scrutiny for students using their platform to violate their university’s code of conduct. In 2017, over 80 University of Ohio students were caught using GroupMe to work on assignments without approval for collaboration, resulting in academic consequences[22]. In cases where students use the platform to cheat in classes, many have been discouraged from using GroupMe and also question whether the app should be held accountable. [23] As mentioned in Danah Boyd and Kate Crawford’s writing, Critical Questions for Big Data[24], there are different perspectives that are held accountable for even one action. In relation to these issues on the platform, it's possible not only the students should be held accountable, but GroupMe, too for hosting the platform and continually allowing academic dishonesty to occur without improvements.

Offensive Digital Behavior and Responsibility

At Texas Tech, GroupMe has been a facilitator for many racist messages. On June 21, a Twitter user anonymously posted screenshots of a group message in a GroupMe chat called "Frat Chat" in which many students wrote racist messages and comments. Some of these messages were about killing immigrants. One such message read as the following: "I'm telling you build a wall, and the U.S. government can sell permits for legal hunting on the border and we can make a sport of this, can be a new tax revenue stream for the government." Scheinbaum, an associate professor of psychology and advertising at the University of Texas at Austin, poses an interesting question: Who is responsible for all of this? Is GroupMe devoid of the consequences when things like this happen on their platform? [25].
A similar incident happened at the University of Pennsylvania in which black students were targeted and added to a "lynching" GroupMe chat. Users created a "daily lynching event" in which they posted horrible photos of actual past lynchings. One account in particular that happened to target many of the students was based in Oklahoma, completely separate from any University students. The group seemed to have been linked with Donald Trump since he went to the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. [26]

End-to-End Encryption

GroupMe does not offer end-to-end encryption, therefore, third parties can have access to messages within a group[27]. When there is end-to-end encryption, messages are sent in a secret code no other person other than those communicating can read. [28] Without this in place, it opens up the possibility for group chats to be surveillanced and access to cybercriminals collecting this data[29]. Therefore, when using the platform, users should be careful of what proprietary information they share as they may not know who has access to their messages. [30]

Similar Apps

Other similar applications to GroupMe are available for download on mobile devices or via laptop. In addition to supporting large group chats, they also differ from the features GroupMe provides.

A demonstration of the Signal app [31]


// //

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An overview of the design and use of Slack [32]

Slack is an instant messaging platform that was created in 2013. Slack is designed to cater to large groups of users such as a class or a business. Within each large Slack group, there are subsections or “channels” which are used to chat about specific topics. On Slack, users can share files, images, and videos alongside their chat messages. In addition, users can start voice or video calls with other members of a group. As of April 2021, Slack has over 10 million daily users and has established itself as a leader in corporate group messaging[33].

Slack offers three different pricing plans to cater towards different types of users[34]:

  • Standard - for basic features and small to medium-sized businesses
  • Plus - for more advanced features and larger businesses
  • Enterprise Grid - for very large businesses with regulations

Similar to GroupMe, Slack does not allow end-to-end encryption, allowing individual businesses to manage how data is controlled and viewed when using the platform[35]. Therefore, organizations can download and see private channels or direct messages without the users’ knowledge.


Google Hangouts Logo [36]
Google Hangouts User Interface. Sourced from 9to5Google.[37]

Google Hangouts was released in 2013 as a free product joining Google’s line of maps, communication, organizational, and entertainment set of digital products offered at no cost. Google Hangouts is a free communication platform that integrates well with other free products that Google offers. [38] Google Hangouts offers messaging services that include private and group messaging. Group chats can have up to 150 participants. Chat features include animated GIFs, emoji, stickers, and status messages. Group video calls can host up to 10 participants in a single video call. Google Hangouts does not use end to end encryption which has led to some criticism. [39] Google Hangouts asserts that they work diligently to maintain a degree of privacy for their users. In addition, Google Hangouts makes a point to keep an up to date terms and conditions page that is accessible to users on the Google Hangouts official website under privacy. [40] Google Hangouts also has the option to connect to another one of its products, Google Voice which aims to replace traditional phone plans by creating options for users looking to rely on wifi as opposed to going through a traditional cell phone carrier. Connecting Google Hangouts to Google Voice allows users to use SMS services as well as have access to a Voicemail that has been traditionally provided through telecom corporations. Google Hangouts is listed as Number 12 on the Apple Store Top Charts list indicating that it is a very popular platform.


WhatsApp logo [41]
WhatsApp User Interface. Sourced from Forbes.[42]

WhatsApp is a popular messaging platform owned by Facebook. There are over 55 billion texts sent every day using WhatsApp[43]. WhatsApp uses free wifi connections to send messages or conduct audio and video calls. When users aren’t connected to a reliable WiFi source, WhatsApp will utilize cellular data, preventing the accumulation of SMS fees. Due to this, WhatsApp has become particularly popular for international communication and as of April 2021 is the top messaging app in 112 countries[44]. Unlike GroupMe, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to protect its users' privacy and keep their messages stored securely[45].


Discord logo[46]
A Discord Server. Sourced from VentureBeat.[47]
Discord Nitro Payment Panel. Sourced from Windows Central.[48]

Released in May 2015, Discord is a free application which allows users to communicate through text, voice, and video messaging.[49] Discord is based around "servers", which are communities where users with similar interests are able to gather and interact with one another. These servers can either be public or private. Public servers allow users to join freely with a shareable link while private servers only allow access to Discord users personally invited by an existing server member. Servers contain numerous text and voice chat channels. In text channels, users can send messages, upload files, and share images with other users within that channel. In addition, Discord enables the use of standard emoji as well as custom emojis that server members can upload. In voice channels, users can host voice and video chats, play music, and share their screens with other users within that channel. Discord also offers direct messaging. Users can create groups of up to 10 people where members can privately communicate with each other over text and voice chats.

In servers, users can be assigned different "roles". These roles may be linked to specific permissions available to that role. For example, a "moderator" role may allow a user to mute, kick, or ban other users from the server. Many servers additionally utilize "bots". Bots are non-human users that help ease certain server operations. For instance, a server for younger users may use a bot to automatically remove swear words and obscenity.[50]

Discord offers a subscription service called Discord Nitro.[51]It is offered for a monthly price of $10 USD or an annual price of $100 USD. The subscription enhances the experience of the user by offering a multitude of benefits. Benefits include:

  • Better Emojis: Subscribers can make their own custom and animated emojis.
  • Larger Uploads: Subscribers can upload files of up to 100MB.
  • HD Video: Subscribers can stream at a higher quality. They can either stream up to 1080p at 30 FPS, or 720p at 60 FPS.
  • Personal Profile: Subscribers can have an animated profile picture and display badges.

Discord is offered on numerous platforms such as Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, iPadOS, Linux, and web browsers. With over 150 million active users, Discord has established itself as a leader in group messaging especially among gamers.[52] Similar to GroupMe, Discord does not use end-to-end encryption and instead uses standard encryption.


WeChat logo on a mobile phone. Sourced from the South China Morning Post.[53]
A WeChat user utilizing WeChat Pay. Sourced from Tech In Asia.[54]
Censorship on WeChat. Sourced from The Citizen Lab.[55]

WeChat is the most popular Chinese messaging app, and has over 1 billion total users. WeChat is owned by Tencent, one of the largest corporations in not only China but also the world. WeChat is ubiquitous in China, and is used in many aspects of daily life.[53][56][57] When exchanging contact information, Chinese citizens will often use WeChat profiles instead of email addresses or telephone numbers. Even the Chinese business community often substitutes WeChat profiles in lieu of physical business cards.[53][56][57] WeChat often also takes the place of cash and credit cards. WeChat Pay, a payment service directly built into WeChat, is accepted at many Chinese businesses, from large corporations to small street vendors. WeChat users are also able to send money to others via WeChat messages, a feature commonly used for purposes such as splitting bills or making payments.[53][56][57] WeChat additionally has an integrated app store built in, making it a so-called “super app”. WeChat users can install and use mini programs offered by other companies through WeChat. These mini programs cover a wide variety of sectors, from food delivery to ride hailing to entertainment. Due to all of these various features offered in WeChat, users rarely have to exit the app when going about their daily lives.[53][56][57]

WeChat has been criticized for censorship and sharing user data with the Chinese government. Unlike privacy-inclined messaging apps like Signal or Telegram, WeChat does not use end-to-end encryption. Instead, WeChat only encrypts messages as they travel between user devices and central WeChat servers.[55][58] This means that Tencent or a third party such as the Chinese government potentially has access to all messages and activity on WeChat. In addition, WeChat does not disclose when data is shared with the Chinese government.[55][58]

WeChat censors certain topics, especially those critical of the Chinese government or Chinese Communist party.[55][58] Whenever a WeChat user sends a message, it is first analyzed by censorship algorithms. Text messages are analyzed for specific keywords or combinations of keywords. Images are analyzed for their similarity to a central database of problematic images using a technique called MD5 hashing, and are additionally run though Optical Character Recognition to extract text which can then be further analyzed.[55][58] If the message is deemed to be potentially problematic, WeChat will automatically stop the message from being sent but will not alert the sender, who will assume that the message was sent successfully.[55][58]


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