For the first time since 1992, the number of SMS (standard messaging service) messages sent last year declined. The number of texts sent fell to 145 billion—which is still an incredible amount—while instant messages rose to over 160 billion.

This can be attributed to branded instant messaging on smartphones, as well as the arrival of alternative services like iMessage, BBM, and Whatsapp, but it mainly comes down to money. Texts typically cost 10 cents to send, while messages via Whatsapp are free. Most IM services are currently in their start-up phase: meaning there’s little to no profit, but companies incorporate other ways to accommodate their customers. iMessage is free with every iPhone purchase and Snapchat doesn’t charge. Aside from the lower costs, there’s more options with instant messaging, like added emoticons and games that may appease to the younger generation.

SMS is still worth around $60 billion, and makes up over 98 percent of revenue for mobile phone companies, since it’s the default message system. But as the generational gap shrinks with older cell phone owners converting to smartphones, and the number of unlimited data plans on the rise, SMS usage should continue to dwindle.

[via Daily Mail]