Our messaging apps are broken
By Luc Delany
Our messaging apps are broken
29 Jan 2015 - Delany & Co

Our messaging apps are broken and hopefully our client Matrix.org can fix them. But this post isn’t *just* a shameless plug of a client, it highlights a real issue we are facing with increased wall-garden services today.

This morning I woke up to find I had messages on iMessage, WhatsApp, Google HangOuts, Facebook Messenger as well as the usual notifications from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and my ever expanding email inbox.

At least I only have one inbox for email, even if I do have a couple of different accounts. I also made a number of phone calls today with people in the UK, Malta and Singapore, but thankfully I was able to use the same phone to make these calls. But all my other messaging apps are totally fragmented.

Although I know retro fashion is kind of in right now, it shouldn’t be when it comes to tech. When email was first used you had to use the same email provider (eg xxx@compuserve.com) as the person you were messaging or you simply couldn’t email them. Imagine how many email accounts you’d need to have today! As well as massively improving ease of use, interoperability between email providers also has other benefits, it’s driven competition of service, features and storage sizes too.

The idea of non-interoperable email seem laughable now but that’s what we are putting up with for our messaging apps. The idea of multiple messaging apps is painted as giving us choice, control and separation between conversations. In reality though we end up using all the different channels for communicating with all our different social groups be it close friends, family, colleagues, randoms that you just need to communicate with. For me this means before I open an app I have to pause and think ‘oh wait, where were we having that conversation?’ or ‘where did Joe send me that postcode to?’ or is ‘is Carol on WhatsApp or Viber these days’? I end up thumbing my way through multiple apps and conversations. I may also end up installing new apps because Jero is trying the latest thing where he is.

What this also means is that I end up sharing my personal data with multiple companies in the hope that some of my friends may be using their services too or they just refuse to join the one I like to use most. The idea that I have increased choice is actually an increased lack of choice as you are forced to add multiple apps and hand over your data to multiple providers.

There are some services out there trying to solve part of this problem by aggregating notifications into one place but that only means you get as many notifications and you give your data to yet another company.

What is actually required is a solution on the back end. A protocol or standard that all the communications and messaging apps providers adopt to really give users choice. I want to choose which app I use because it provides the best features and I trust the privacy policy.

Matrix is a new open standard, developed to break the status-quo and allow communication services themselves to interoperate. The end goal is that consumers will be able to choose to use their favourite app from their trusted app provider and still be able to communicate with friends using competing apps and services. I for one, hope they succeed.

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