Closed Messaging Apps

Why do people like closed messaging apps, such as Whatsapp?

I much prefer to use good old fashioned email for many reasons :

  • I like to use free software.
  • I can touch type so I like prefer using a full sized keyboard rather than one finger on a phone.
  • I only have one phone, but many other computers (three laptops and a desktop).
  • I like using open standards, like e-mail, where many providers can compete to provide a service which cooperate with other service providers. Messages in whatsapp can only be sent and received from whatsapp, whereas an email from Gmail can be received by any other email client.

So why do people like Whatsapp?

I asked Nalin, and he muttered "it's nicer to use", My reply : What if I created an Android application that looks exactly like whatsapp, but it sent and received emails? How could that be any different from whatsapp? Alas it is!

Here's my thinking...

People dislike email because they are *forced* to use it for on-line shopping etc, and then get inundated with spam. They don't read the spam, nor mark it as read, so their in-box is never empty. New message from friends and family get submerged in the spam. They also use email for work, and despite having two addresses, things still get mixed up.

One of the killer features of whatsapp is that it never shows you spam from shops nor spam from work. It only shows you messages that you like, from people you have chosen to chat with, not from robots. It's killer feature is that it is incompatible with email!

So you end up with two message streams.

  • Whatsapp : No spam. Ham only from friends and family.
  • Email : a cesspit of spam plus a little bit of ham from "weirdos" like me, who don't use whatsapp.

(For those not familiar with the lingo "ham" is the opposite of "spam". It's the good stuff that you want to consume).

So why do I like email? Shouldn't I hate the cesspit too? Well, my in-box isn't a cesspit.

Any spam is treated as such (I mark it as spam, and I never see it again).

I separate(d) work from social. My work emails and social emails never mingle. My boss never used (or even knew) my social email address. My friends never used my work address. It niggles me when friends/family ask me to use send to their work address, and also when they send mail from their work address.

When I have unread emails, they are ALL new emails. They all get marked as read (or spam) quickly. Any messages which I want to "save for later" get tagged as "important", but are also marked as "read", so my inbox is empty.

BTW, some people suggest using one email address for social, one for work, and another for the cesspit of spam from on-line shopping etc. I've never had the need, so I'm not sure if it would work. I think the cesspit would end up having mostly unread messages in it. And this would lead to some important messages being missed. e.g. The garage letting you know your car is now ready to be picked up.

There are "advanced" features of email which the muggles never use. For example, your favourite shop may send messages that you never care about, such as "Your order has been sent" (it's never true, the package is still in their warehouse at that stage. Liars!). I don't want to mark it as spam, for fear that useful messages will be lost too. So I create a filter, which looks at the sender and the message line. Matching messages are marked them as read without me even seeing them. So they still exists in my inbox, but I never see it as unread, and therefore never usually open them.

Gosh, what a lot of rules. You have to be disciplined to keep the spam at bay. Life is too short!

Conclusion : It's much easier to use whatsapp

But there's a problem with that line of thinking. IMHO, you still need to keep your emails tidy even when you use whatsapp.

The cesspit didn't go away just because you visit it less often. Whatsapp is like a peg on your nose, it stops you smelling the cesspit while you are wearing it. But then you take off the peg and open your email app; the stench is worse than ever. So you get out as quickly as possible (making the cesspit bigger).

  • You miss that important message from the garage.
  • Messages from weirdos (like me) that use email aren't noticed for days or missed entirely.
  • Your messages are fractured. Why can't I find that funny joke? Oh yeah, it's in one of my *other* messaging app.
  • You have so many messaging apps, because different people prefer different ones, so you need *ALL* of them. Fortunately they die off quickly, which saves you from tidying up, because all your messages are gone whether you like it or not.