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Why Are All Instant Messengers the Same?

This pass weekend, my wonderful wife got me a shiny new MacBook Pro for our anniversary. If you’ve ever seen my old laptop, you know it’s been a long time coming.

I’m now looking for a IM application for the Mac (I’m testing out Adium now), and thought I’d write about how IM applications have grow stagnate of late. I know, we now have the ability to instant message people from a browser or mobile phone, but outside of that, everything else have been aesthetic bells, whistle, doo-hickeys, and thingamabobs.

It’s time for someone to revisit what it means to instant message someone. The current model is definitely flawed and is failing as an effective tool communication. This is why we have services like twitter Today. Here are some of the flaws of current instant messenger applications:

Roster Lists Suck

In the early days of IMs, roster lists were sufficient. But now, everybody’s on the internet. As a result, my roster list is now long and unmanageable. Scrolling through my roster list now would be like if I had to scroll my whole address book to find the exact person I want to send an email to. There should be an easier way find the person I want to instant message.

Also, the roster list is a poor representation of how we connect with people today. Instant communication today is such a major part of what we do online today, so it’s amazing to me that it is constraint to such a small and confined window.

I Want a Connect to People, not their Identities

Most clients treat contacts on different IM networks differently. IM applications should treat all my buddies identities as one. Adium seems to do this pretty well. IM should be about connecting with real people, and separating them by what network they’re coming from is impersonal.

The Concept of Instant Messaging should be Expanded

Services like Twitter and Jaiku suggest that there is a communications gap that instant messaging currently doesn’t provide. Instant messaging networks are getting more and more inter-operable. Instant messaging applications should be looked at as a conduit for all informal communication. Users don’t care what network they’re using to communicate - they care that they can connect to the person they want when they want.