When I was at school the mobile phone went from a luxury item to something that was affordable and even kinda essential.
I remember that Nokia cycled from orange backlights all throught the colours of the LED rainbow until eventually you could get them in white, which was really fancy among the kids at school.
I don’t recall which came first for me: IRC or ICQ.But either way, back in the early 2000s when text messaging still cost 25 cents a pop, the freedom and possibility of being available 24/7 was super exciting (as long as the dial-up connection hadn’t crapped out).
I’d stay up all night just chatting to people, and for an antisocial teen it was an amazing enabler.
Chat networks sprung up like weeds, everyone was writing them. Even I had a crack, which is to say played around with Visual Basic building what was a terrible (but in my memory quite slick looking) GUI app.
Eventually folks came up with the incredibly smart idea to reverse engineer a bunch of chat protocols and build an app that could connect to them all at once.
As the first of many apps to do this, I loved Trillian to bits (but as a skeezy high school student never managed to pay for it). Eventually I moved to Linux and Pidgin was good enough, so I ended up using that for yeeeaaarrrrss before it fell into obscurity.
Obscurity because after a period where all the disparate chat apps started federating and talking to one another, all the old guard died off and got replaced by a new and vastly less interoperable bunch of chat apps.
Which is where we are now.
Facebook (and by extension Messenger) have been tarnished by the stink of their inappropriate data collection and sharing. A lot of my friends use Instagram, but I doubt anyone is going to trust Facebook again.
Slack just shut down their IRC/XMPP gateways leaving you to use the slow, bloaty Electron app that barely works. No joke, I have to close it whenever I boot a VM because it uses so much RAM.
Twitter is trying their hardest to destroy all the goodwill of the early adopters by plastering ads and featured content in the timeline and push notifications, while at the same time killing third party API support. This is a burning platform, and I’m done with it.
Whatsapp is just plain ugly. I have at least one friend boycotting it at the moment, otherwise this would be a contender for the messaging platform most of my friends use.
Signal security is questionable at best, with at least two exploits this year that I know of, and a frustrating dependence on Electron. I’ve had so many issues with the Android app in the past, I don’t think it’s worth anyone’s time.
iMessage only works on iOS and MacOS. It’s the height of arrogance.
On top of these, the remainder of things I’ve used in the past couple of months are Discord, Hangouts (lol), Microsoft Teams, various hook-up apps (I’m only human), Skype, Meetup, and of course regular trusty old text messaging. There are jsut too many things.
Twitter has been my go-to messenger for a little while now. I wanted it to be the universal SMS of the Internet, but right now they’re more focused on trying to be the World Cup news hub (side note: exploding head 🤯 should really be a ligature so you can join it with other emojis such as rolling eyes 🙄).
The other day I cracked it and uninstalled it from my phone. Which leaves the question of which trade-off messaging app do I use to talk to my friends?
In hindsight this is kinda why I think Google’s play to extend on SMS is fundamentally so smart. If it’s on everyone’s phone by default and works out of the box, what impetus is there to install another app?
So despite being burnt by buggy Android group texts as recently as last month, I’m just about ready to go all-in on SMS. Relive the glory days of standards and interoperability with a service I’m paying for.
So, you know. Send me a text. (International fees and roaming charges may apply)