Some thoughts on Messaging.

This morning a friend mine tweeted that even with a bunch of high-quality newspapers around him, he was ignoring them in favour of reading twitter.

Earlier this month, I was reading Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”. One his assertions is that it was largely a historical accident that people used to passively consume media, and now that people can produce things just as easily, we’re going to see an explosion of “participatory culture”, as they use those products to socialize with each other.

For some reason, this morning those two ideas really came together in my mind, and it hit me that messaging on the internet is going to be huge. Like, really, really huge. Even bigger than you think. And I believe that it will end up going one of two ways.1

One of the two futures I can imagine is full of places like Facebook, where you can only communicate with people who are on the same service as you, and every service is trying to own your online identity. I’ve lived in that environment with instant messaging clients, and I’m not a huge fan. Having to check five or ten different websites is almost as much of a pain as having to run five or ten different instant messenger programs. (Or having the one multi-protocol client frequently lose service on one or more of the networks when the provider decides to cut them off.)

The other is one where all the services can interoperate, and you can communicate with all your friends, relatives, and co-workers from a single program which will go out and get the messgages, sort them, collate them, maybe even rank them in terms of importance, or do a million other things that I can’t even think of. A world where if one messaging service provider decides to cancel your account for some reason, you’re not cut off from the people you knew there, and you still have all the images you uploaded, and messages you posted, and can send them all to a new provider, without losing anything.

That second world is the one I want to help make happen, and I’m very fortunate that people are paying me to do just that. I’ll stop talking now, but only after saying that you can help, too.

  1. Well, to be honest I think it’s far more likely to be some combination of those two futures, and perhaps some other things that I can’t predict. Stuff rarely ends up as just one thing or another.