Ugh. Texting should be Dead. Why can’t we get Universal Messaging?

My current favorite chat app is Telegram. It’s clean, fast, customizable backgrounds and text. Weirdly addictive Stickers and GIF search. Automatic pre-loading of links and previews. Sadly, I rarely get to use it. Only a handful of my friends are on it, so the application sits patiently on my screen, waiting for a badge to hit. Well, let’s first talk about why I would even NEED another app. You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, Billie – I have Text, I have Facebook. What else would I need?”

Well, there’s the problem, right? I mean, Already, you have two apps that people ‘prefer’ to use. Some of my friends text, others use Facebook Chat. Now, add onto it some others:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • Google Hangouts
  • WhatsApp
  • SnapChat
  • SMS Text
  • Apple iMessages
  • Skype / Lync / Skype For Biz
  • WeChat
  • HipChat
  • Twitter DM
  • GroupMe
  • Instagram DM
  • Livetext (Yahoo)
  • …Even Email

Honestly, doesn’t it feel like too much? Not only is it cumbersome to have multiple apps, but it’s also really annoying to maintain so many conversations with so any platforms. I have to remember which app each person prefers, sometimes maintaining multiple conversations with the SAME person, but on different apps.

So.
Let’s just talk about the usual suspects for a minute.

First, plain old text. For most of us State-Side, regular text messages are the primary way to chat. Your phone number is what you usually give out to friends and family, even new interests; it’s actually now probably the most universal identifier you have.
Let’s think about this. SMS/Text, as a service, is actually crap. It’s been around now for over 20 years, and hasn’t really changed since. You are still limited to 160 chars per message, and sending pictures is still ‘unpredictable’ to say the least. Messaging, as a process, has grown beyond it. There’s so much mixed media, emotion, value to be sent, that SMS just wasn’t built for.
Now, Apple and others tried to layer on top of that with iMessages and such; this was a band-aid in my opinion. It solved media and other comforts, like read receipts, sure – if only you are in the same ecosystem. Android users, for example, don’t get those features, as they can’t see iMessages.

Well, ok, so what about Facebook Messenger? There are 1.15 billion users on it. They have a Mobile app, a Web version, and a few desktop apps. Seems like a good choice, hey? Well, here’s my list of issues with it:

  • They keep changing the interface.
  • It’s trying to be more than what it is. I want to chat, get a reply, send pics. I don’t want to snap chat.
  • Too many plug-ins clutter the system. Do I need to order an UBER from my chat window? No.
  • Your data and messaging is not yours. All of it is fair game to Facebook to see and use.

I guess I am not asking for much. If it were up to me, I would ask for these features:

  • Universal identifier (email or phone number)
  • Legacy connections: The app would be able to ‘fall-back’ to text or SMS or FBook Messenger, if recipient didn’t have the app.
  • Secure data: Don’t share my data with anyone.
  • Sending Media: No matter the recipient, I should be able to send links, text, files, attachments.
  • Multi-Platform: It shouldn’t matter what device I am on; I should be able to log in and access my chat from a phone, any Mac or PC.
  • Relevant Features: I shouldn’t need to need to leave the app to do the basics of messaging; taking a picture, searching and loading a link, playing a video, saving and sharing a file, cloud service (Dropbox for example) connections.
  • Customization: Change colors, add nicknames, mute and hide people. Edit your text in case of typos.
  • Linking/Syncing messaging from OTHER apps, like Facebook, Twitter DM, etc.

And then, there are some creature comforts that people seem to like, so we may want those as well:

  • Video Chat
  • Voice Calls
  • Video Messages
  • Audio Messages
  • Emoji
  • Linking to your other, lesser used apps.
  • Friend locations / radar
  • Map and Location attaching
  • Google Search
  • Gif/Image search and insert
  • disappearing images and messages
  • IM service integration/merging
  • Internal/Cloud Gallery for quick photos
  • Snapchat/Instagram style filters

Sadly, we are not there yet. Too many companies want to do their own thing; they want to cash in on their egg, and there’s a selfishness about it. The goal of a chat application should be universal access, not niche markets, wouldn’t you say? I think so.

That said, I have tried most of them. There is a pull towards one over the other when it comes to features. For example, snapchat has a very specific purpose. Tumblr, very specific purpose. Facebook Messenger? Well, they try to be everything to everyone.

Ultimately, I have to have at least 4 apps on my phone, since I have 4 groups of friends that all use them: iMessage/SMS, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Telegram.

Of the four, Telegram is my favorite. Here’s a link: telegram.org/dl (features I like are listed after this blog entry.) Once you download it, add me to it. You’ll see how cool it is.
Features of Telegram:

  • App for iOS(iphone), Android, Windows Phone, Web, macOS, Linux, Windows
  • Send pictures, music, video, and FILES (any type)
  • Encrypt your messages
  • Set a timer on messages to ‘self destruct’
  • Store Media in the cloud
  • @gif – instant access to Giphy Animated GIFS
  • @stickers – Facebook-like stickers (even create your own)
  • It’s FAST.
  • Free
  • No Ads
  • No bloated ‘shopping’ or ‘hail an uber’ that you will never use

 

 

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