Do you Jabber?

Verbs was the king of instant messaging on iOS.

I got Verbs at version 2. I thought they abandoned it. But their iOS 7 update looks pretty good. It syncs conversations between devices, knows when you’re using on your Mac and silences notifications during that time. Verbs was the best IM software on iOS…years ago. In its day it was the only iOS app that looked like it belonged on iOS.

This demo video is very careful to not show what services it supports. We can assume AIM, Google Talk and Jabber. The problem is that the world may have moved on. Who still signs into AIM? Who uses Google Talk? Google is rebranding it as Hangouts and trying to get everyone to use their own app. I suspect Google Talk as it was introduced (as XMPP/Jabber) won’t be around much longer.

And how many corporate settings actually use Jabber services now that there are things like Yammer and SalesForce Chatter? Not being smart – genuinely curious.

I Miss Adium

Yesterday I messed around with the 21st century ways to quickly call and message people. It’s a pain in the butt.

I’m gonna ramble about it now.

IN THE OLD DAYS – the year 2000 -…we had AOL IM. It was a simpler time. It was pretty much the only game in town for computer-to-computer messages. It’s what the kids used instead of FB/Twitter. In college we’d put where we were meeting for dinner as our away messages. We didn’t have cell phones…at least not yet.

Even then, some people had MSN Messenger, ICQ, and other messaging accounts. But it didn’t really matter, because software like Adium and Pidgin glued them all together. You had access to everybody who mattered through one free software package.

Today it’s a big cluster. Every time you want to message somebody quickly it comes with this added friction of figuring out HOW. Is this an email? A facebook message? A text message? An iMessage? What’s App? Skype? Each medium is now owned by a larger company that doesn’t want to play with the others.

Generally, one-to-one conversations tend to settle easily upon a single protocol, but groups get hairier because everybody has preferences. They want to use the thing they normally use. As people, family, friends, and work teams are distributed across the globe this issue has gotten bigger than it’s ever been. How do you get a bunch of people across the country talking to each other without it being a pain in the butt for everyone?

That comes up in my own group conversations. I’ve got group messages in iMessage and FB Messages. Anybody with an Android phone wants to be on Hangouts. But this guy (guilty) doesn’t want to be on Hangouts because he thinks Google+ is the devil. Why is he making this so DIFFICULT?!

What about conference calls? Can’t we all just Facetime each other? No, because Facetime is only for Apple stuff. And you can’t screen share in Facetime. What about Skype? Don’t we all have Skype? Yeah, but so-and-so says Google+ is free. Is it ‘better’? Uh, that’s subjective and debatable.

Facetime was supposed to be a game changer because it was going to be open-sourced. Anybody could work with Facetime – Android people, Windows people, didn’t matter. Except when they tried to implement it the patent trolls came out. The dream of Facetime being an open standard like Jabber/XMPP is dead. Now nobody can talk with anybody else.

Unless you all buy-in to a single platform. Get a Google+ account, or a Skype account…and probably someday soon a Facebook account.

I miss the days when communications weren’t based upon who used what. Also Adium had a pretty cool Link icon.

What I’d like is if the on iOS had the same philosophy as the old-school messaging clients. Let me put in my Google, FB, and other account credentials. Let me have all my messages in one app…preferably the stock app.1

That will never happen.

  1. has something similar, but it’s based upon the old way of doing things. That’s why they call them legacy chat services

The Death of Chat

This eulogy for MSN Messenger sounds a lot like how I would use AIM and ICQ back in the day. I never signed up for MSN Messenger.

When I was in high school and college, we didn’t have Myspace and Facebook. If you wanted to know what was up with someone you chatted with them on AIM and, before that, ICQ. I would spend a lot of time at night having one-on-one conversations with friends.1

It’s really a sign of how much progress has been made here. In the 90’s there were land-lines. No iPod Touches. No Skype. But computers were new to many families. These weren’t laptops – they were ugly beige towers. Rather than deal with older sisters tying up family’s phone lines (not that I was good on the phone anyway) an underlying culture sprung up around the ICQ UH-OH!.

Today I have nieces and they’re using iMessage, or Skype, or Facebook Messages from their iPod Touches. They bounce around between services depending on where there friends are, I think. Sounds familiar?

You know, I don’t know what the kids these days do anymore. But I know they aren’t using AIM, Google Talk, or other “legacy chat services.”2

  1. I, and others, would also spend way too much time crafting clever away messages. Now there are no away messages. Now we have tweets and status updates. 

  2. This also demonstrates a subtle change between chat and messages. Chat implies “I’m here in this conversation with you, right now.” Messages implies “reply to this when you can – i don’t expect something immediately.” But if it is returned immediately, we can chat. 

There’s No Escaping Messages

Macworld Senior Editor Dan Moren thinks that iMessage and instant messaging are two different things and deserve different applications.

I agree that they are two different things, but I think, for now, they work fine in one app together.1

I’ve settled into using Messages as my main chat client. That’s not really truthful, because I log out of chat services most of the day and leave Messages open to answer the occasional text I get.

Why? Because chat is for “hey, how’s it going”s and iMessage is for “answer this thing right now for me.” And I’m going to get the latter messages one way or another…might as well get them on the computer.

But when I am logged into chat I don’t mind my iMessages and chats being intertwined as much as I thought I would.

The only conflict is picking which protocol should be used, and with iMessage not yet as prevalent on computers as chat protocols like AIM and Gtalk, I’m hesitant in using iMessage to send a chat-like message to someone unless I know they are also using the Messages beta.

Chances are they aren’t. Not yet, at least.

But therein lies another problem—when Mountain Lion is released and people start using iMessage like chat, you won’t really be able to escape it.

  1. And for those of you who would prefer two different apps you could always use Adium for chat and Messages for iMessages. 

iMessage Doesn’t Belong In iChat

Text messaging is not chatting.

Being logged into iChat means you are telling everyone on your buddy list that you are ready to be involved in conversation.

Anyone who’s used IM services since the late 90s can tell you what a single message can do. It can either be a welcome invitation to conversation that can go on for hours, or a layer of pestering that makes you wonder why you even have your IM software open.1

That layer of potential distraction is the reason I’ve stopped opening iChat, unless I want to be involved in a text-based conversation, which is, admittedly, becoming more rare. When I’m at my Mac I’m usually working, which means I can’t afford the distraction.

iMessage is great on your iOS device, and especially your iPhone. Since cell phones serve as a communication hub, iMessage feels right at home alongside text messages. It is text messaging.2

But I think there’s an unspoken agreement with text messages: that we’re (usually) not going to have long conversations over this medium. You can’t type 80 words per minute on an iPad or iPhone, so texts are kept short and concise.

Texting (I assume unless you’re a teenage girl) usually has a purpose behind it. “Could you get this at the store? Let me know when your flight lands. I’ll be 15 minutes late tonight. Where the fuck are you the show is about to start! I’m breaking up with you—don’t call.”

But an IM chat session, since you’re telling people that you’re ready and available to shoot the breeze, invites “hey, what’s up?”s and casual conversations that serve no purpose other than to catch up with friends. And that’s a fine purpose, but, frankly, not one I’m going to engage in when I need to be focused on something else.

Texting has the same convenience as email: I can leave a message alone and get back to it when I want to. You can’t do that with chat. With chat people get antsy if they don’t hear back from you within a minute. Why? Because this is an ACTIVE medium. You’re supposed to be engaged. Why else would you say you are available to chat?

iMessage has been rumored to make an appearance in iChat since last fall. It’s possible that it’s been ready to go for months. But I wonder if the potential for iMessage to conflict with the core of iChat is what’s held it back, at least until a better method comes along.

  1. Starting with ICQ in the late 90s, I think a whole generation of software users started building the habit of leaving their chat software open all day while they were in their teens. It was convenient too, since in those days nobody under 18 had a cell phone, and you most likely lived in a house where the phone was always tied up. 

  2. I admit that I do not have a text plan, so I avoid texting people. But something happened when iMessage came out and I suddenly became more likely to text people with it enabled than without it. 

“Why I Hate Video Chat” by Rod Bastanmehr

…I anticipated I’d enjoy it so much more. That it would become an extension of online chatting, making it more intimate and personal, giving us the opportunity to be with one another no matter where we are. Turns out it’s actually the most awkward 40-plus minutes you’ll spend in a given day.

Nobody Facetimes

Ichat novideo

I’ve been trying to use IM a bit more for keeping in touch with friends, although usually what happens is I talk to the same few people instead of reaching out to people I haven’t chatted with in a while. I don’t usually tweet out personal life things and Facebook has become way too noisy for anything useful anymore. During moments like this morning, when I’m just sitting and web surfing, I’ll open iChat and see what happens.

With iChat becoming more Adium-like in Lion1 I thought I’d give iChat with Chax a try again, thinking that iChat would give me something I’d never tried before: webcam chats.

But what I’m finding out is that nobody I know has, or has enabled, an iSight/Facetime camera. So, for me, Adium’s biggest drawback–the lack of voice and audio chats–is a moot point.

I guess they’re all on Skype.

  1. iChat for Lion consolidates duplicate contacts from multiple services in a single contact, like Adium has done for years. It also will add some kind of plugin system, like Adium has had for years. This is similar to other cases where Apple has developed third-party advancements into their own software, but this kind of thing is a natural progression for chat software. I’ve loved Adium ever since I started using it when I got my first Mac about 9 years ago, and have donated to the project, but with this new iChat adding all these features I don’t see why anyone would continue to use it after Lion…except for things like custom event notifications. I love those in Adium.