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Communications

The Balkanization of Chatting 242

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-use-xmpp dept.
JThaddeus writes "Slashdot's own (or former) CmdrTaco has a posting on the Washington Post's website where he discusses how chat apps have overtaken SMS. Yeah, they are cheap. There's no telecom fee per message or for some number of messages per month. However 'The problem of course is that these systems are annoyingly incompatible with each other. My phone can buzz with chat notifications from 3 different apps at any moment. My desktop has even more scattered across browser tabs and standalone apps.' Ditto, nor do I want to hassle learning some app or trying to understand its who's-listening settings. I'll stick to email and to occasional SMS."
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The Balkanization of Chatting

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  • Come back (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:04PM (#43601161)

    IRC still loves you.

    • Re:Come back (Score:5, Informative)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:14PM (#43601263) Homepage Journal

      IRC is in fact still a robust system for talking to people by text. Data organized into relevant streams called channels, with mechanisms for self-policing built in. There's a lot of modernity to, say, skype, but fundamentally, IRC has all the basic mechanisms done well in an open way. But unlike these services, IRC is automatically balkanized, not only do your friends have to use the same technology, they have to use the same IRC networks.

      • by trazom28 (134909)

        Once mIRC was released to the masses, however, IRC mostly crashed and burned, in my opinion. You went from a smaller group of people who could discuss things intelligently (even non-geek topics) to a flood of CTC? ASL? and similar. I still keep in touch with a pile of friends from IRC of the old days.. but I doubt any still go to the channel itself anymore.

        • So... You're saying balkanization is a good thing?
        • by _Ludwig (86077)

          I don’t know what networks or channels you hang out on but I never see any “a/s/l?” type shit on any I’m ever on, whether they be social or technical or hobby-related. If a newbie does come on acting inappropriately or just not in keeping with the tenor of the channel (e.g. CAPS LOCK PERMANENTLY ON,) they’ll realize they’re out of line and shape up, get bored and /part, or get /k’ed if they’re really obnoxious.

        • What chatrooms are you checking?

          Try #pfsense, or #powershell, or #exchange, or #{somethingITrelated}. One assumes if youre going into a discussion on Powershell the first thing you type isnt going to be "ASL", especially since we have these things called "channel operators".

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Any decent IRC client can connect to any number of networks. You can also use bitlbee to access IM networks as if they were IRC networks. IRC clients are more powerful than IM clients, generally coming with scripting, so this approach is very useful.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Balkanization doesn't mean what you think it means. Back to History 101 with you.

        • It's as appropriate a usage as the summary's. Historical accuracy of metaphorical language is not as important as parallelism in communication.

          • by macraig (621737)

            Balkanization means exactly the opposite of your attempted usage. TFS doesn't misuse it.

            • I don't see how new IRC networks spawning over the course of time and dividing the IRC user base with lines separating differing subcultures is not balkanization. But I am pretty sure that that it's definitely not the opposite. You think I'm having trouble with high school history, whereas you've got trouble with kindergarten vocabulary.

      • by godrik (1287354)

        That could be easily solve in a jabber like way: you just need to add the server at the end of the login. talk to ikanreed@effnet

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Yeah, shame it grew so old. IRC is outdated.

    • by westlake (615356)

      IRC still loves you.

      But no one loves their IRC chat client.

      I say that as someone who has been using mIRC since 1995 --- and still consider it best-of-breed for Windows.

      The fundamental problem is that IRC chat clients remain frozen in time while AIM and its successors stripped chat and messaging clients of their intimidating technical complexity and geek jargon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:07PM (#43601177)

    ....fascinating. (arches eyebrow)

  • by trazom28 (134909) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:07PM (#43601181)

    Back in the pre-SMS days, http://www.trillian.im/ [trillian.im] Trillian did this nicely. You would think there would be an app to combine all as well. Couldn't be that hard if it's been done once before.

    • by Tog Klim (909717) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:08PM (#43601193)
      pidgin does it everywhere for free, and it can do SMS via AOL.
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Trillian was it's own worst enemy. If you all have to use the same app in order to span multiple messaging platforms, then what the fuck good are all the different messaging platforms. Everyone I know who used trillian eventually dropped it when they realized that all of their friends really just used X (where X was the social platform du jour.) What they need to "invent" is a messaging *platform* that does it all for you (i.e. collects the message data from different providers on a server and streams it t

      • What they need to "invent" is a messaging *platform* that does it all for you (i.e. collects the message data from different providers on a server and streams it together where it can be read by any number of compatible clients)...

        Where the hell is that dripping sound coming from? Oh. Never mind. It's an army of "Terms of Service" laywers all salivating in unison.

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        What they need to "invent" is a messaging *platform* that does it all for you (i.e. collects the message data from different providers on a server and streams it together where it can be read by any number of compatible clients)

        The problem is that the chat services want you using their network, through their client. They will block attempts to use another client. Why? Well, if you use another client, who can be sure you're viewing their advertising? This is why Skype, for example, is so resistant to reverse engineering.

        What you're looking for is called Jabber; it already exists. The problem is that the chat networks don't want to play ball.

      • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:39PM (#43601517)

        You mean like XMPP, which is an official chatting protocol that allows for virtually every method of communication currently in use today?

        Google Talk uses that, but nobody else does, because all these companies like having total control of their messaging networks and have no business interest in playing nice with others.

        • by Nerdfest (867930)

          iMessage uses it underneath apparently, but added proprietary extensions. It would have been nice to see someone other than Google get behind XMPP. I'm getting tired of dealing with a bunch of proprietary protocols that don't add any value.

    • I'm guessing facebook, in contrast, would intentionally and quickly break anything that doesn't use it's messaging system to force you to use it since you would see less ads from it then. And that's one of the main things I would want from such a program: not having to use facebook's shitty app and see shitty ads.
    • Trillian and Pidgin do it if you don't mind having to manage multiple accounts and don't mind it only working on the platforms they choose to support. There's no reason we can't have a real open messaging system. In fact we do with XMPP but no one wants to use it so they can lock you in and google who claims to be all about being open made their XMPP based software incompatible.
  • Ob. XKCD (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:07PM (#43601185)

    Standards [xkcd.com]

  • by mfarah (231411) <miguel.farah@cl> on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:08PM (#43601189) Homepage

    Back in the day, there was *one* discussion forum: Usenet. It was everywhere, and all servers connected to it. Now, there are *thousands* of disconnected forums, dozens of "forum software packages", etcetera. Even systems that try to connect distinct forums (Disqus) aren't necessarily the most popular option.

    • by trazom28 (134909)

      True, and Usenet could be handy. But basically it became a spam forest, and you'd have to wade thru 200 spam emails for one on the topic. Maybe if they would have developed filters for it, it could have gone on further.

      • I'm not sure you actually know what usenet [wikipedia.org] is, and you either never use it or you forgot how it works (note the present tense [wikipedia.org].) There are moderated and unmoderated groups. The Linux Kernel Mailing List, which is used in the development of the Linux Kernel, is one example of a still thriving newsgroup.
        • by trazom28 (134909)

          Good to know and hear - I have not used it for years because it became useless pre-moderated, and my current ISP (who I've been with for 10+ years) doesn't carry newsgroups. Glad to know that it's at least in part working well.

        • by mfarah (231411)

          I know well enough what Usenet is. Hell, I AM the moderator in chile.grupos.anuncios (a local equivalent to news.announce.newgroups).

          But to say Usenet is *far* from its glory days is a terrible understatement. Usenet is, for its glory days purposes, pretty much dead. Not many servers remain, not many users remain, entire hierarchies are dead. BESIDES some specific still-running newsgroups, not much activity remains.

          Those isolated pockets of still healthy Usenet traffic are now no different than just any oth

      • by dj245 (732906)

        True, and Usenet could be handy. But basically it became a spam forest, and you'd have to wade thru 200 spam emails for one on the topic. Maybe if they would have developed filters for it, it could have gone on further.

        Spam filters for Usenet seems like a much more difficult problem to me than spam filters for Email. This is a medium with no functional delete function network-wide. If your message makes it in, it is basically there and not going anywhere. The only way is for each server to filter the incoming data, in real time (or close to it) and decide what is Spam and what is not. If a message is rejected, the spammer can easilly know about it, because they can easilly check the group and see that their message isn

      • by erice (13380)

        True, and Usenet could be handy. But basically it became a spam forest, and you'd have to wade thru 200 spam emails for one on the topic. Maybe if they would have developed filters for it, it could have gone on further.

        No, it didn't. Spam was a big issue for a while but server side spam filters like cleanfeed and distributed systems like nocem became very sophisticated and effective. Unlike email filters, Usenet filters have the advantage in being able to see *all* the destinations. If an article that appeared in more than a handful of groups was quickly squashed. Spam never entirely went away but it well under control long before the decline of Usenet.

        There were also efforts like Usenet2 that created a network of tr

    • by Paradoks (711398)

      Back in the day, there was *one* discussion forum: Usenet.

      Ah, yes, I remember those days.

      I was posting on multiple BBSes and occasionally using FIDOnet.

    • Could have had our cake and eaten it too if Wave had taken off. This is what it was REALLY for, but noone seemed to get it and Google sucks at PR.

      Imagine visiting your wave inbox, which is connected to the forum waves that you subscribed to, and seeing the wave chats you were participating in on facebook.

      Alas, "easy" often triumphs over "best".

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:09PM (#43601201)

    considering that every carrier here has unlimited minutes/SMS plans by default

    • Also, most providers in the US like to tell you that you have unlimited SMS, unlimited data, and then ding you with per message charges for MMS.

      Frankly, I would love to see a provider go with 2 simple tiers: Unlimited Data (including calls, sms, and everything else they are providing via IPv6 networking). Purely Metered data at pennies or less per MB (for people who just keep a phone for emergencies).
  • >> how chat apps have overtaken SMS. Yeah, they are cheap.

    Chat apps are cheap? I thought they were all free.

    • You still have to pay for data, which is far cheaper than the thousands of bucks per GB cost of an SMS

      • by wagnerrp (1305589) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:40PM (#43601527)
        Infinite bucks per GB? SMS messages don't use bandwidth or data. They get carried in what is otherwise wasted padding in heartbeat packets. That's why they have a limited character length.
        • by gauauu (649169)

          Infinite bucks per GB? SMS messages don't use bandwidth or data. They get carried in what is otherwise wasted padding in heartbeat packets. That's why they have a limited character length.

          Yes, but that doesn't stop AT&T from charging me 20 cents per message. Considering each message only has 120 characters, it would cost me ridiculous amounts of money to send a GB-worth of data via SMS.

          • Infinite bucks per GB? SMS messages don't use bandwidth or data. They get carried in what is otherwise wasted padding in heartbeat packets. That's why they have a limited character length.

            Yes, but that doesn't stop AT&T from charging me 20 cents per message. Considering each message only has 120 characters, it would cost me ridiculous amounts of money to send a GB-worth of data via SMS.

            A couple years ago I saw an amusing and pretty simple analysis showing that the end user bandwidth costs in terms of $/MB are far, far higher for SMS than for the Voyager space probes, including the cost of development and launch of said probes.

      • by hankwang (413283)

        thousands of bucks per GB cost of an SMS

        I see the upside of SMS'es costing the sender money: it throttles the rate of incoming messages. I fear the day that the spammers figure out how to use Whatsapp for massive spam runs.

        Too bad that here in Netherlands the telcos are moving to unlimited-SMS plans due to competition with Whatsapp...

    • by Tester (591)

      >> how chat apps have overtaken SMS. Yeah, they are cheap.

      Chat apps are cheap? I thought they were all free.

      WhatsApp (the most popular one) is not free...

      • i currently use imo i don't particularly care for it but it seems to be the best free chat app for android that i have tried the rest seemed to be a constant stream of crap or facebook only. I really wish pidgin would release a android app.

  • This is new? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fishchip (1203964) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:16PM (#43601287)
    Jabber, ICQ, AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Chat, IRC, entire websites devoted to nothing but realtime chat... did I see more of a problem back in the 90's than there actually was and now it really is a soul-destroying issue in 2013? Or is this just rehashing 15-year-old+ news?
  • For sending text messages. Do you want to have ads? Do you want your chats monitored and your data sold? Do you want to pay a monthly, weekly per message fee for your messages that you send? A government who will offer the service for free, you pay for it in taxes.

    For standard SMS text messages they get somehow added to your phone bill, I personally think they should be a LOT CHEAPER. But you do get a common protocol, because everyone else is doing it.

    The other texting methods are incompatible with each ot

    • by lister king of smeg (2481612) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:45PM (#43601583)

      For sending text messages. Do you want to have ads? Do you want your chats monitored and your data sold? Do you want to pay a monthly, weekly per message fee for your messages that you send? A government who will offer the service for free, you pay for it in taxes.

      For standard SMS text messages they get somehow added to your phone bill, I personally think they should be a LOT CHEAPER. But you do get a common protocol, because everyone else is doing it.

      The other texting methods are incompatible with each other because they all have different rules on how they are funded and supported. The monetary gain must be related to the volume of the texting.

      really then how come email does not suffer the same problem? It works on all platforms has free services that all work together, and has free clients with no adds. what is the difference here?

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Speed.

        Gmail for instance takes a little bit of time for a message to get from the SMTP inbound connection to someone's inbox.

        Depending on the day, I've seen yahoo take hours to get things into the inbox AFTER their servers have got the message.

        Good mail systems do it instantly, others, not so much.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @01:45PM (#43602199) Homepage Journal

        really then how come email does not suffer the same problem? It works on all platforms has free services that all work together, and has free clients with no adds. what is the difference here?

        The difference is that the email system was created before the internet was monetized, and the current chat systems except for irc were all created afterwards.

      • Early on the cost was part of your ISP fee. Now other vendors monetize on adds based on you using their system.
        If you are paying a wireless company part of the Fee is texting service that is rather platform independent. However because wireless companies have made texting a cash cow, they made it a technology that people will try to avoid. Thus using other texting services, that are cheaper.

        Besides you could in theory use your email to be just as efficient as texting. However because the platform was so

  • I can't stress enough how much it drives me up the wall to get text messages on my Android phone from iPhones. Far too often, they show as "multimedia" messages requiring a data connection just to download 5-7 words of text.

    Or when an iPhone user sends a txt message to several people, and each "reply to all" response appears as a separate, disjoint SMS thread without the full conversation or context.

    • by theurge14 (820596)

      Sounds like it might be a problem on your phone. I haven't seen this problem at all on iPhones.

    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      When I receive an overlength sms on my android from an iphone the split message comes in reverse order. Not so for android to android. This is highly annoying.
    • by macklin01 (760841)

      BitZtream (692029) wrote: That doesn't happen on iPhones, perhaps its your end thats the problem.

      theurge14 (820596) wrote: Sounds like it might be a problem on your phone. I haven't seen this problem at all on iPhones.

      [snark]Of course the standards-breaking message sender renders its standards-breaking messages correctly.[/snark]

      More seriously, we have:

      • iPhone -> iPhone : no problem
      • non-iPhone -> iPhone : no problem
      • non-iPhone -> Android : no problem
      • iPhone -> Android : textual messages appearin
      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        Yes, and people are telling you, the problem may be on your end.

        I have an android phone; my wife has an iphone. I get iphone -> android text message without issue. They show up like message from any other phone.

        This suggests the issue is either with your particular phone or the particular phone sending you messages, but not a general issue with iphone or android.

        • by macklin01 (760841)
          Good point. Since I've seen this issue sporadically with multiple iPhones sending messages to Android, I had figured it was more on the iPhone end with a standards-breaking or standards-bending SMS behavior.
          • by macklin01 (760841)
            this [verizonwireless.com] and this [reddit.com] are pretty similar. I see this most frequently in multi-person text messages from iPhone, and indeed, in the default txt message client, these often appear as attachments / multimedia instead of text.
  • XMPP? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:36PM (#43601489)
    No?
  • Skype? (Score:2, Informative)

    by technomom (444378)

    A whole article on this topic without mentioning maybe one of the more historically successful attempts at pulling together voice, chat, offline chat/mail - Skype?

    I know it's not perfect but it is definitely the only messenging service that my family all work with - grandma/grandpa from their ancient Dell computers included.

  • Most of my friends have iphones and have icloud or imessage or iwhatever its icalled ... I can send free texts to them and it doesn't cost me to get texts from them... I borrowed a Nexus4 from a friend for a few weeks and I much prefer it except for the $0.20/text message I have to pay my provider or pay them an extra $7.00/month for "unlimited text messaging"....

    There's no way I will convince them to all install gropeme or some equivalent free texting app.. It just isn't going to happen.

  • Personally I do all my chatting on my phone or tablet.

    I have one app (beejive, in this case) which handles basically everything. yahoo, msn (dunno if that's relevant after the skype buyout.. I don't use it any more), gtalk, aim, facebook, etc.

    The only other thing is iMessage.. which, frankly, is where I do the majority of my talking.

    On my desktop I used to use Adium which, similar to beejive, handled everything I needed. Haven't used that in years though.

  • Email today is totally fine for texting. The problem is not the protocol, the problem are the clients that still fully stick to an emulation of writing something like a letter. Better email clients that support some ways of quickly composing and reading short blurbs of text could solve this easily.

    (Of course this doesn't change the fact that many people want to have things like chatting or texting and email nicely separated.)

    • It's the application, stupid

      And there you've found the reason why chat apps are popular. The protocol doesn't matter at all, what counts is that they're dead simple to install and use for the intended purpose - chatting.

      That whole package is something that email clients, Jabber and SMS don't have (SMS is the closest one, but it's too expensive, the basic version doesn't do multimedia and it doesn't keep track of the conversation).

  • by Rob Riggs (6418)
    It keeps the riff-raff away.
  • Why I use SMS (Score:4, Informative)

    by houghi (78078) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @12:56PM (#43601701)

    The reason I use SMS and hope to use for a LONG time are the following:
    1) No data plan needed. This means I am not tempted to go online all the time. So I just used a pre-payed card. Last top-up was 28/02 for 25 EUR. Still 15 EUR available
    2) I can use it with the many people who do not have a smart phone. It just works.
    3) Smart messaging. This means if I want to chit-chat, I SMS them where we can meet, we meet, have a few drinks and have an actual personal relationship.
    4) Because it costs the other person to send something back, they don't send useless messages and most of the time just a message where we can meet.

    And if smsing is not an option, you could, you know, use the device to, well telephone the other person and speak to them.

  • Seriously? Why do you have 3 on your phone? I'm betting you spend more time screwing with apps than your time is worth if you just paid for SMS.

    I have ONE chat app on my PC, none on my phone, yet everyone seems to 'chat' just fine, if you think phones are meant for 'chatting'. A Jabber client is all you need, if you want to talk to someone who doesn't use a proper XMPP system, make them get on Google talk.

    The problem is that you're trying too hard to talk to people that don't seem to be willing to do th

  • It works fine for me across devices, stays in sync, gets archived to my gmail, it's xmpp...

  • Now that Phones are more prevalent, and unlimited txt as well, I haven't used IRC, IM, AIM, Google Talk, Jabber, etc etc etc in several years now. Everything is done via SMS. Maybe it's just who my friends are, mostly outside the tech industry.

  • From my perspective the biggest problem with chat is the requirement for a chat server. As long as everybody depends on some intermediary that intermediary has incentive to "wall in" users for monetization or just "customer acquisition." There are all kinds of other problems with centralized chat like the ability to keep records of who is talking to who. Even if the content of the messages is encrypted, the flow of messages is not.

    I think there a couple of obscure setups like bitchat [bitchat.com] and bitmessage [bitmessage.org] that

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think there a couple of obscure setups like bitchat and bitmessage that seem to address those issues, but clients are not widely available.

      You forgot WASTE [wikipedia.org]. I guess there's still some people fiddling with it...

  • Navel-gaze much?

    "ooh look at me I'm so dotcom and trendy and chat on the Internet! ooh!"

    Try working.

  • ...is the only thing I miss from 2007 era smartphones.
  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @02:37PM (#43602813) Homepage

    I think this is just one part of a larger problem, which is that our communications are all fragmented.

    Personally, I have 4 different email addresses that I actively use, as well as several that I don't use. I have 4 different IM accounts/protocols that I actively use. I have my cell phone, my work phone, and a Google Voice number, and voicemail for each. I have SMS via Google Voice and my phone directly, and then I also have iMessage on my phone, which arguably counts as a 5th IM account rather than SMS. I have membership and various forums and social networks. Through some of those social networks, I have even more email addresses and IM accounts. There may be even more accounts that I'm not thinking of.

    So beyond the issue of SMS/chat, in that we have all these different incompatible and slightly different communications which don't work well together, and there isn't really a larger scheme to make it all coherent. I think Google may be the only company that's really trying to tackle the issue. They have been relatively successful in incorporating video, audio, and text chat with social networking. All that is tied in with Gmail and Google Voice under the same account, even though they're not really integrated yet. It'd be great if they could open APIs and protocols that allowed full interoperability with other services, e.g. if your friend could have Google+ and you have a Facebook account and a third friend sets up his own server, they can all still talk to each other and post on each others' walls.

    But beyond that, I think we should be asking questions like: what's the difference between a IM message and SMS? Should you IM status be the same as a tweet? Where do you draw the line between a short blog post and a long Facebook status? What's the difference between sending an email and sending a IM to someone who is offline?

    I would not only ask whether we need all these incompatible protocols, but whether we need all these different *kinds* of messages. Let's figure out which ones we really need, and then formulate standard protocols for distributing them.

  • I hoped for a moment that chat applications are finally getting Romany localization.

    Anyway, that's similar to what happened to usenet.

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