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Posts Tagged ‘Messages’

Apple’s Messages Beta: Pretty Meh in a Mixed OS World

February 22nd, 2012 02:29 admin View Comments

messages.pngAs part of the Mountain Lion preview last week, Apple put out a beta of its revamped chat application, Messages. If you spend a lot of time connecting with other folks on iOS devices, Messages is a must-have. If not, it doesn’t really add much to the mix.

Installing Messages is simple enough, though it does require a system reboot. If you’ve been using iChat, Messages will automatically import your accounts and you’re good to go. If not, it’s simple enough to set up your accounts. Like iChat, Messages supports AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk and Jabber accounts. To get the most out of Messages, though, you’ll need an Apple ID and Messages on the desktop and/or an iOS device.

Also like iChat, Messages doesn’t support IRC, Windows Live, or a host of other less-popular protocols. If you still need one of those, you’ll want to turn to Adium or another chat client.

Using Messages

For the most part, Messages is a pretty standard instant messaging application. If you’re talking to other users on Jabber, Google Chat, AIM, or whatever then you’ll see very little difference. Like iChat, Messages supports screen sharing, sending files, video chat, text chat and integrates with the Mac address book.

Messages’ real bonus kicks in if you’re chatting with users who use Messages, and/or you’re also using an iOS device.

new-account.png

Messages basically unifies texting and instant messaging for users who are on Mac OS X and iOS. For instance, I have Messages installed on my iMac, and have an iPhone and iPad with iOS 5.0.1. If I’m chatting with my brother, who has an iPod touch with iOS 5.0, he can send me a text message from his touch or computer and I’ll get it on my phone and desktop. The conversation is synced between my computer and my iOS devices almost immediately. If someone tries to start a FaceTime call, I’ll get the request on any device that I’m logged in on.

FaceTime is also integrated with Messages, so you can initiate a video call from your desktop to a friend or colleague on an iOS device (or vice-versa). If you’ve been wanting FaceTime on the desktop, but didn’t want to pay the $0.99 for the standalone App, grab the Messages beta.

Quality-wise, I’ve been pleased with FaceTime messaging. I tested it out with a couple of calls to users on iOS devices, and I didn’t really notice any problems with the quality of video or audio. When full-screening the session, the video was a bit fuzzy – but given that my display is 2560×1440 and the iPod touch doesn’t send HD video, that’s not surprising.

The only bug I did run into with the beta was Messages mixing up the display of transcripts. It’d show one user, but the transcript for a chat would belong to a different user. This was easily corrected, though.

It would be nice if Apple offered the option of initiating a voice-only chat over FaceTime, but that might annoy its carrier partners a bit much. Group video chat would also be a boon, since there are times that it’d be nice to chat with two or more colleagues, friends or family members. (If Google can do it with Hangouts, surely Apple could figure it out with FaceTime as well?)

Messages-conversation.png

Messages is a modest improvement over iChat and brings Mac OS and iOS a bit closer together. Unfortunately, the benefits that Messages brings to the table really only apply if you happen to have a lot of friends using iOS and/or Macs. If most of your contacts have iPhones, iPads and/or a Mac on the desktop, it’s pretty useful. If most of your contacts have Android phones and/or use Linux or Windows, you’re pretty much just as well off with Adium or sticking with iChat.

Source: Apple’s Messages Beta: Pretty Meh in a Mixed OS World

SMS+ – Jailbreak App Enhances Messages iPhone App

August 27th, 2011 08:33 admin View Comments

SMS+ app

biteSMS is one of the popular alternatives for the Messages app as it includes number of features like smileys, quick reply, quick compose, scheduled SMS, delivery reports, signatures etc. that are not available in the native Messages app.

But the ad-free version of biteSMS costs $9.99 on Cydia or you need to buy credits to send SMS, which also includes a license. If you find it expensive, you can checkout a new jailbreak app called SMS+ was released couple of days back on Cydia, which adds tons of new features to enhance the native Messages app.

SMS+ is developed by Filippo Biga, who has brought us jailbreak apps like Springtomize that allows users to customize almost all aspects of the iPhone and jailbreak tweaks such as CameraLock, which brings the lock screen shortcut feature introduced in iOS 5 for easy and quick access to the Camera app from the lock screen to iPhone users oniOS 4.1 or later.

SMS+ adds the following features to Messages app:

  • Quick reply (Activator gestures can also be configured)
  • Text to speech
  • Read later
  • Status bar notifications
  • Timestamps for every message
  • Mark all as read
  • Delete all
  • Pull to sort (sort by date or by sender)

You can checkout the screenshouts of the jailbreak app below:

SMS+ is available on Cydia for $1.99. SMS+ does not come with all the features available in biteSMS, but if you don’t want to pay $9.99 for it, then SMS+ seems like a good option.

If you plan to check it out, let us know how it goes.

Source: SMS+ – Jailbreak App Enhances Messages iPhone App

Gmail Lite: If You Build It Google, We Will Come

November 27th, 2010 11:10 admin View Comments

I’ve seen the future of messaging — it looks a lot like Facebook Messages. More specifically, it looks like the new version of Facebook Messages that the company began rolling out two weeks ago. But I’m not sure that the future is Facebook Messages. At least not for me. Because that’s simply not how I have used Facebook and it’s too hard to switch my patterns now. And that’s why Gmail has a huge opportunity. We need a Gmail Lite.

At first, I was underwhelmed by the new Facebook Messages. But that’s just because I really hadn’t been using Facebook Messages before. I would get a message every now and then, but mostly I would ignore the area. But in the past couple of weeks, probably as the feature gets turned on for more users, I’ve started to get more messages coming to me this way. And as that has happened, I’m seeing the absolute beauty of the system. Namely, I’m seeing the beauty in its speed.

I’m not even talking about loading times or anything necessarily related to the technology behind Facebook Messages. What I’m talking about is the feature that allows you to respond to a message simply by typing in the tiny box below it and hitting return to send. Some people hate this idea because they want the return button to insert a carriage return like the old days — and that’s fine, that’s still an option right next to the box you’re typing in — but I love this quick-send ability. Love. Love. Love it.

The famous cliche is that every second counts. But it’s a cliche because it’s true. Every second does count. At first, you might think it’s ridiculous that I’m jumping for joy because Facebook Messages is saving me one or two seconds by not having to use the send button. But those seconds really do add up. I wonder how many times over the years I’ve hit that send button? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

100,000 seconds is almost 28 hours. In other words, I’ve probably wasted a day of my life hitting that stupid button.

And yes, I know there are keyboard shortcuts. But the percentage of people who use those is likely pretty small. Plus, on Gmail, the keyboard shortcut to send something involves hitting two keys: tab then enter. If you could cut out the tab part, you’d still be saving about a half second. Again, per message. It adds up.

But that’s just one part of it. Let’s talk more specifically about Gmail.

The product I’m envisioning would be an opt-in version of the service which would replace the standard Gmail that we all know and love (when it’s not unbearably slow these days) with a modified version. This new version would work much like Facebook Messages in that when you load a message thread, you’d have a small box under it: the reply area. To reply, you’d simply type a message and hit return, and off it would go.

There would be no options to change the fonts of the email. No subject line. No CC field, no BCC field. No left-align, right-align, quotes, bullet lists, etc. None of the crap that you don’t use 99 percent of the time. It would just be a tiny input box that you could type a message into, or paste a URL into. Ideally, you’d be able to drag a photo or document in this box too, to attach it to the message (like you now can with regular Gmail). And then you send it. Again, just like Facebook Messages.

If for some reason you needed to add any of the above mentioned clutter to your message, there would be a button to make that stuff appear. But by default, it would all be off. It would just be a small input box.

But the real key to this Gmail Lite that I envision would be a restriction. Message length.

Currently, a huge amount of time with email is wasted trying to fit it into some lame formal style.

Dear so and so,

Thank you so much for the such and such. It was great to so and so. Hopefully we can such and such again.

Oh and blah blah blah. Wasn’t that blah?

Sincerely,

The person whose time was just wasted

P.S. Writing this sentence just wasted another 20 seconds of my time.

If you want to be formal with someone, send them a letter. 99 percent of messages online should be brief.

Message: Drinks tonight?

Response: Yes

That’s it. If anyone wonders why SMS has been exploding in usage over the past decade (in spite of rip-off costs), this is it. There’s no reason email shouldn’t work like that as well.

And while email may be getting less formal with time, I would bet that the length of the emails actually isn’t going down. That’s why we need a new restriction in place in this Gmail Lite to enforce that. Back in September, my colleague Jon wrote about the awesome movement to send three sentence emails. It’s a wonderful idea, but it’s just not catching on in the way that it needs to in order to fix the problem.

We need a built-in solution.

Gmail Lite should borrow the character restriction from Twitter and enforce it. 140 characters. But maybe bump it up to 160 characters, the actual SMS limit, as usernames wouldn’t be needed with this system. This way, messages could also be sent via SMS (again, like Facebook Messages). More importantly, messages would have to be brief. Even more brief than three sentences. It would be so beautiful.

Part of the problem with email coming in is that when one comes in, you know in the back of your mind that you’ll have to type a bunch of words and hit send to respond to it. It will take time. So you put it off. If there was just this input box that forced you to be as brief as possible, I bet that a lot of people would respond more immediately. And the response rate in general would be higher.

How do I know? I see it in my new Facebook Messages inbox and my Twitter Direct Message area.

Obviously, this idea will have some people screaming bloddy murder. But remember, Gmail Lite would just be an opt-in option for users. And if you needed to send a long email, you could hop back into regular Gmail Classic with the click of a button.

But I would bet that a huge percentage of Gmail users would opt-in to using Gmail Lite as their primary email solution. And it would come with some sort of built-in notifier in the mail itself (either at the bottom or in the metadata) to let people know that you were responding with Gmail Lite, and that’s why your response was so shot (like what three.sentenc.es does). It might be weird at first, but eventually, everyone would get used to it.

So what’s stopping a startup from doing this? Why does it have to be Facebook or Google? Because, sadly, this is probably only going to work with a messaging system that has hundreds of millions of people already using it. (And of those, Gmail is in my mind still definitely the best.) Twitter has come the closest to doing this from the outside, but that service is used differently — it’s public messaging versus private messaging. And private Direct Messages are severely limited by the follow factor (someone has to be following you for you to DM them).

Gmail’s Priority Inbox is great. But it really just dances around the true inbox problem. It helps you determine what email to ignore. It doesn’t solve the fundamental issue that we’re all seeing more and more as inboxes grow: the lame legacy formalities of the system. And the outdated ideas such as the subject line and even the send button.

We need to kill all that stuff off. And we need a current email system to help do it, so it will actually catch on. Facebook Message may well be the future of this type of online communication for the younger generations, but Gmail has a chance to mimic the idea and get the rest of us involved right now.

Gmail Lite. If you build it Google, we will come.

[image: Universal Pictures]

Source: Gmail Lite: If You Build It Google, We Will Come

Did an Apple Engineer Invent FB Messages In 2003?

November 20th, 2010 11:49 admin View Comments

theodp writes “Q. How many Facebook engineers does it take in 2010 to duplicate a lone Apple engineer’s 2003 effort? A. 15! On Nov. 15th, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Messages, which uses whatever method of communication is appropriate at the time — e.g., email, IM, SMS. A day later, ex-Apple software engineer Jens Alfke was granted a patent for his 2003 invention of a Method and apparatus for processing electronic messages, which — you guessed it — employs the most appropriate messaging method — e.g., email, IM, SMS — for the job. Citing Apple’s lack of passion for social software, Alfke left Apple in 2008. After a layover at Google, Alfke landed at startup Rockmelt, whose still-in-beta ‘social web browser’ also sports a pretty nifty communications platform.”

Source: Did an Apple Engineer Invent FB Messages In 2003?

Inside The War Room: Answering The Questions Behind Facebook Messages

November 15th, 2010 11:29 admin View Comments


Earlier today, we got a chance to talk to Joel Seligstein, the Engineering Manager in charge of Facebook’s new Messages product. Messages, as you’ve probably heard by now, is Facebook’s new email/SMS/chat hybrid — a system where Facebook lets you interact with your friends without putting much thought into which technology you want to use to reach them. And while the new product clearly has quite a bit of potential, there are still plenty of questions: Who is this for? And is there still a place for the old-school email systems we’ve all come to know and love (and hate)?

Check out the video above for Seligstein’s answers (some of which we’ve transcribed below). Oh, and take a look at the background — we conducted the interview in the Facebook Messages ‘war room’, so you can see are over a dozen engineers cranking away as they launch the product.

Seligstein says that Facebook began the project, codenamed Titan, before Google launched Wave, which was its take on the messaging platform of the future. So what drove Facebook to begin working on its own messaging platform?

“One main thing that we noticed was that lots of communication was happening both in Facebook and outside Facebook. I’d send emails to people all the time — that means I have to check my email address many times a day. I’d really rather have that personal, people-to-people communication along with my other Facebook messages. Same thing over SMS — as I moved to an iPhone, for example, I was kind of obsessed with how those messages came in through that channel. So really what we’re trying to do is figure how to bring all personal communication together.”

On whether this will be used primarily by teenagers and twenty-somethings, who seem to favor SMS and chat over email:

“I think those will be the first early adopters — I think they’ll grab on really easily. They won’t even notice that they’re using some different newfangled messaging system. It’ll just work the way they want, the way they’ve been wishing it would work.

I think we will have a little bit of an adoption problem — not a problem, but it will take a little longer for the rest to hop on board. We’ve noticed even for us, it takes a week or two before you really grab on and get this system. I think they’ll slowly come on board but I think the younger guys will grab it really quickly.”

And is Facebook Messages a ‘Gmail Killer’? Seligstein says no, but it sounds like he thinks traditional email will be relegated to non-social messages like bank statements, with communication between friends occurring on Facebook. In other words, Email wouldn’t be dead — it would just be on life support.

We all still use email on our team. [Messages] is really focused on the people and personal communication. We’ve noticed very quickly that our email boxes become high signal for bank statements and things along those lines, and then our Facebook inbox has become very high signal for people. We found there is kind of a duality there, and they’re both extremely useful so we don’t see them going away any time soon.

Deals, newsletters, all those kinds of things are very important, it just becomes how to surface those correctly. I don’t know what the future is for email. I think we’re trying to capture the personal communication of email. We’re almost not interested in the rest..”

During our interview, we also touch on Facebook’s decision to build the new Messages product using HBase instead of Cassandra, MySQL, or another solution — you can find the company’s full blog post on the underlying technology here.

Source: Inside The War Room: Answering The Questions Behind Facebook Messages

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