(This is part 2 in a series of 3 posts on the topic.)
Last time, we covered the landscape surrounding the ubiquitous messaging service. We recounted a brief history, looked at some dead historical platforms, and examined some common mistakes that communication vendors make.
In the past few years, many companies have tried to insert themselves as the next ubiquitous messaging service–and, in large, nobody has succeeded. This is because they stop short of providing what the general American public deems as a full feature set. While text messaging tends to still be the greatest common divisor in America, it falls short in many areas. We’ve all experienced hints of the following features in some services, but no one service has yet captured them all. And certainly, there is a need:
The ubiquitous messaging service of today should include:
- Seamless cross-device support. Message using any device you desire: phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, television. User experience is seamless across devices, even when switching in the middle of a conversation.
- Seamless cross-platform support. Message using any platform you desire: mobile app (Android, iPhone, Windows, Blackberry), desktop application (Windows, OS X, Linux), or browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer). User experience is seamless across platforms, even when switching in the middle of a conversation.
- Medium-agnostic. Communicate without caring about how your recipient will read your message. You shouldn’t have to remember that Joe is a Google Voice user, and as such does not reliably receive MMS messages. Focus on the message, not the limitations of the medium.
- Location-agnostic. Message without concern about whether you (or your recipient) have access to a desktop computer or mobile network data service.
- Always on. Message without needing to know someone’s office/business hours. Trust that they’ll get the message when importance of the message deems it. Goes hand-in-hand with…
- Offline messaging. Don’t worry about whether your recipient is online. Again, trust that they’ll get the message when importance of the message deems it.
- No length limitations. I can convey this point by mentioning a single number: 140.
- Real-time. Your message should be delivered immediately. Not 15 seconds from now; immediately.
- Ability to see when your message has been read. Knowing whether and when your recipient has received your message helps avoid both miscommunication and over-communication. (Side note: This is not a desirable feature for everyone.)
- Ability to see when your other party is typing. Knowing whether your recipient is still engaged in a conversation helps make more productive use of your time.
- Concurrent media types. Send text, links, pictures, and videos–all in the same conversation.
- Real-time voice/video chat. Don’t limit real-time conversation to text-only.
- Notification control. When you have a new message/conversation, be notified exactly when, where, how, and how often you want. Don’t worry about your recipient–let them decide for themselves. For example, you need not wait until morning to send a message just because you fear waking up your recipient. On the other hand, if the importance of a message warrants it, there should be a way for the recipient to be interrupted if busy/unavailable.
- Group conversations. Remember telephone party lines? And while you’re at it…
- Collaboration tools. Screen/content sharing. Moderator-controlled sessions. Think business meetings and classroom settings.
- History archival. Save off all media used during the conversation (text, pictures, video, content) for future reference/searching.
- Inherent security. Designed with security in mind. HTTPS only (no plain HTTP), multi-factor authentication, etc.
- Privacy controls. Be visible to only those to which you want, and only when you want to be visible. Ability to block people who want to harass/spam you.
- Smart parsing/formatting. Turn web addresses, phone numbers, addresses, dates, and times into usable context-appropriate, device-appropriate, and platform-appropriate links.
- Open participation. Not specific to a single device, platform, browser, or carrier. Open API for third parties. And finally…
- Widespread adoption. What good is it to have the ultimate messaging service, but to be the only of your friends using it?
The astute among you will note that many of the items on this list have come to light only in recent years. And thus, the feature set required for the ubiquitous messaging service is a moving target: It will evolve again in the next few years.
Next time, as we continue this discussion, we’ll identify some who are vying for the title of “ubiquitous messaging service.”