​​Layer is shutting down: What happened and what you can do

In recent months, numerous businesses reached out to CometChat looking for an alternative to Layer, which they felt was on the decline. Last week, we were saddened to hear that Layer decided to shut down all operations, giving their customers only 90 days to migrate to another service.

Team CometChat • Apr 21, 2020

Limited time only

Move to CometChat

Even though we can't alleviate all of the cost and the work required, get in touch and we will match your Layer bill as well as provide dedicated migration support to help you shoulder this load. Just reach out to our team with a little information about your company and your use-case.

In recent months, numerous businesses reached out to CometChat looking for an alternative to Layer, which they felt was on the decline. Last week, we were saddened to hear that Layer decided to shut down all operations, giving their customers only 90 days to migrate to another service.

If you are one of Layer's customers affected by this, firstly we want to say, we're sorry. This situation sucks. You invested the time and money to integrate their service and, despite their best intentions, they let you down. And now you need to spend even more time and money in rebuilding your chat feature.

We understand that your trust in external services has taken a hit by this experience. That's why we'd like to take a moment to tell you about the ways in which CometChat differs from Layer in a business sense.

This could even be an opportunity for your business to update and improve on your existing chat implementation. We've been doing a lot of exciting work and you could take this chance to start using some awesome features like HD voice and video calling.

What happened

Layer came on the scene in 2013 with a bang when they won TechCrunch's Startup Battlefield. Following their win, they almost immediately received several pre-seed and seed funding rounds. At this point in time, CometChat had been steadily growing for six years already, completely bootstrapped and profitable.

In 2017, Layer's business model changed drastically after they raised $17 million and acquired Cola. Their product, which they had always presented as 'a developer tool for chat' was quickly repositioned as a customer engagement tool, much like Intercom and Drift.

We can't say exactly what happened to Layer, but it looks like undue pressure from investors to capture a broader market played a role in these decisions. No one gives you $30 million for nothing.

But this pivot arguably placed them in dangerous and crowded waters, and had them competing with industry giants like Intercom. A pivot like this also involves fragmenting commercial and technical efforts throughout a business. It's no wonder that in the following year, Layer's development stagnated and reliability issues became more and more prevalent.

Earlier this year, Layer was acquired by Engagio for an undisclosed amount. Last week, Shaun – who works for Engagio – sent the following email, announcing the shutdown:

We will be sunsetting the Layer Platform and API on October 30th, 2019.

The platform, features, and functionality of our service will continue with no change from what it is today until that date, including access to export your data.

After October 30th, 2019, the Layer Platform and all services associated with Layer will be shut down in their entirety.


There will be no part of Layer online past this date and no option to continue leveraging the Layer backend services. Similarly, there is no way to take the Layer backend service and self-host it or for us to provide it to you.


On the business side, we definitely messed up and have learned a lot in the process. I know this likely puts you in an extremely tough position and I apologize that I did not have better news to share with you.

I also recognize the timeline is very tight, but it is that way for our mutual safety. What I would not want to happen is that I say we can continue to support you for 6 months and then 4 months from now, we have a critical outage that we can just not resolve with our team. That would put us both in a much, much worse position.

If I can assist in recommending a competitive service, please let me know the use-cases that are most relevant for you.

Thank you,

Shaun VanWeelden
Head of Layer

As a chat and messaging SDK and API similar to Layer, we understand the challenges that come with running a business like this. We also have a tremendous amount of respect for Layer's ambition and equal amounts of empathy for the team who worked there behind the scenes. I don't doubt for a second that the team at Layer had the best of intentions, but sadly, that isn't always enough.

To us, this whole story mostly raises the question of how sustainable big money investments are when expectations are not aligned. Our story is not as thrilling as some in the tech scene: CometChat was never a Bay Area start-up in pursuit of hypergrowth at all costs. Our focus has always been on steady and sustainable growth. Instead of capturing customers, we want to serve them as best we can.

In any case, what's done is done, and instead of dwelling on what happened, it's time to look forward. Many Layer customers have started looking to CometChat for a reliable chat partner that scales along with them. We'd love to support you too.

What can you do?

For those of you now left scrambling for an alternative, we think CometChat could be right for you. If you were fond of Layer's early focus on clever developer tools, you'll love working with ours. We focus completely on creating all the things you need to make implementing CometChat straightforward. This includes SDKs for every platform, comprehensive example code and example apps, a focus on guides and tutorials (which we're heavily expanding), and even complete flexibility in connecting the other services you use.

We understand that you've probably been working with Layer for a while and have grown accustomed to their feature package, but we should be able to provide complete feature parity, and should even be able to give you some exciting, new features that you weren't expecting all at the same cost if you get in touch before August 31. Check out a comparison here:

FeatureCometChatLayerGroup chat✅✅Direct chat✅❌Video chat✅❌Voice chat✅❌Private conversations✅✅Custom metadata✅❌Typing indicator✅✅Online indicator✅✅Delivered indicator✅✅Read indicator✅✅Push notifications✅✅Email notificationsSoon❌e2e encryption✅❌Message attachments✅❌

To offset the unexpected development costs that this abrupt shutdown will obviously incur, we are offering to match your Layer bill. We'll also provide you with dedicated migration support free of charge. Just reach out and we'll gladly chat about all that's possible.

We're very sorry to see a shutdown like this happen. Not only for the team at Layer but also for their customers. We hope that by assisting those left out by Layer, and helping them for years to come, we can rebuild the trust and enjoyment that working with dedicated developer tools can bring.

Best regards,

Anant Garg - Co-founder & CTO @ CometChat

Team CometChat

We build chat and messaging SDKs that let you quickly code a full-featured chat experience into any mobile or web app.

Try out CometChat in action

Experience CometChat's messaging with this interactive demo built with CometChat's UI kits and SDKs.