Standards

08/05/2019 //

I’ve complained about people complaining about e-mail before, but I’ll happily complain some more, because I think there should be a common messaging protocol too.

E-mail as we know it1 could not be invented today, because every firm want to lock everything down. Or rather, it would be invented, then hobbled by proprietary technology.

Instant messaging became a thing after the Internet had started eating the world. MSN messenger is the one I remember, though I never really used it myself. AOL also had one, Google went for Google Chat, and then Facebook came along, and then Google tried competing and out out endless new variations, yet kept falling on its face.

What was frustrating was that, as far as I can remember, these services couldn’t communicate with one another. So you signed up for them all, and then you could use clients like Trillian (or maybe Adium if you were on a Mac), but you couldn’t send a message from one network from another.

One of e-mail’s great strengths is of course that you can do this. It doesn’t matter which provider you use: Google, Yahoo!, Outlook, Fastmail, ProtonMail, or thousands of other: they can all communicate with one another. As I’ve said before, e-mail still holds some of the promise of the what the open web could be for people, however steeped in Viagra spam it may be.

My wish, and this will never come to pass because there’s too much money and personal data at stake, is that the providers would agree to choose a protocol like Jabber2 , allowing compatibility and letting people message between providers. You can build a layer of dumb stickers and other shit on top of that again. If the other person is on a provider that doesn’t feature that particular layer of dumb stickers and other shit, you wouldn’t see it.

This, of course, is not unlike the approach Apple has taken with Messages. Apple devices get the full experience, emojis and stickers and all, but if you’re on Android, you can still communicate with an iOS device, it just becomes a regular SMS3.

As it is, if sort of feels like we’re still shouting over a wall so our friends can hear us. I’ve installed Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Signal, and Skype on my phone. I had Snapchat and Google Hangouts, but gave up. It seems unnecessary, but what do I know?

fn1^: And some hate, apparently.

fn2^: Google chat and Facebook chat were at least based on that in the beginning, I think.

fn3^: That’s the idea, at least. It’s still a bit buggy.