Between the likes of WhatsApp, BBM, iMessage and various others, there have never been more ways to send short text-based messages to each other. I’ve been using instant messaging services since 1999, when my parents first signed up for dial-up internet, but the services I use now are very different. The advent of smartphones means that we can be connected to these services 24 hours a day, and not just when we’re on a computer connected to the internet, so they are now a much more useful form of communication.
This blog post is about the services I use, and the ones I used to use.
Services I no longer use
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
The first one I signed up for back in 1999, whilst still at secondary school. A handful of friends used it at the time and it was one of the first to launch. After not using it for sometime, I finally deleted my account last year.
I used ICQ for a while, but have never used the official ICQ client – it’s always been through a third-party client like Trillian or Adium. I was a relative latecomer to ICQ with a 10 digit number. After announcing that I was ‘retiring’ my ICQ number in 2008, I deleted my account last year, at about the same time as my AIM account.
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
I never owned a BlackBerry, so my first interaction with BBM was with the release of the iOS app earlier this year. Knowing its popularity, I decided to try it out, but after amassing just two PINs from friends I’ve made the decision to get rid of it. I imagine most BBM users who don’t currently have a BlackBerry device are former owners who have changed to an iPhone or Android device. That doesn’t describe me though which is probably why I’ve not got much value from it.
Technically speaking, I still have an account, but I log in so infrequently that there’s no point in trying to get hold of me this way. It doesn’t appear to be a priority for Yahoo! either as the iOS app hasn’t been updated for over a year. Which is a bit of a shame as it could be combined with Flickr Mail, Yahoo! Mail and Tumblr to make a very powerful client.
Services I use, in order
Although I am reachable by Google Hangouts, via its iOS app, I don’t think I’ve used it since the rebrand from Google Talk. However, I used Google Talk for many years prior.
Quite a lot of my friends use WhatsApp, but I only occasionally use it for actual conversations. And that’s mostly with one specific work colleague who uses it a lot.
I use Skype now and again, although mostly for cheap calls to landlines and not to chat to other users. I still see it more as a voice chat service, than an instant messaging service, despite it absorbing MSN Messnger recently.
I use Apple’s iMessage service quite a bit, but mostly without thinking. Because it integrates silently with SMS text messages, there’s no need to worry if your friend is signed in. And it will fall back to SMS if messages fail to deliver. Of course the downside of iMessage is that it is iOS-only, but enough of my friends have iPhones for me to end up using it quite a lot.
Twitter Direct Messages
Until very recently Twitter has been de-emphasising direct messages, but a recent update enabled pictures to be attached as well as text. Over the years I’ve sent quite a few DMs and I think Twitter could build quite a good messaging system if they wanted to. They certainly have the customer base for it.
As far as third-party messaging apps go, this is the one I use the most. The main advantage is that just about everybody has a Facebook account, and many people log in frequently or use the dedicated Facebook Messenger app. It’s also great for group discussions.
But none of them beat good ol’ SMS
SMS text messages are still the best instant message platform. It’s available on every phone, no matter how old, and just about everyone uses it. My contract gives me 5000 free text messages every month. So whilst Facebook lets me send pictures and do group conversations, sometimes a simple text message works best.