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Graying Out (tbray.org)
706 points by zdw 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 312 comments





I don't know exactly why, but reading this made me extremely sad and nostalgic. The very much social world of instant messenger and plain old web pages pre like-ified and follow-ified social media seems like a quaint anachronism, now. I suppose it really is, if it was 15 years ago.

Some of you will correctly point out that those communities are still there on IRC and in the forums right where I left off, ready to be picked up, and you're not wrong. I suppose it is me that has changed and gotten older as well, and the world doesn't feel as magical as it did at that time. My internet, its media, and the people I shared it just seemed to electrify me so much more. Now, everything feels so dull and grey. But, perhaps nothing has changed so much as what and how I consume. What would younger me think of the mindless, lazy way I consume content on social media, and my corporate job?

It would be really nice to see slow content and the digital village return again as cultural norms. Until then, I'll just have to make deliberate choices to choose them as I once did. I really wish I could make a time machine and talk to my younger self to knock some sense back into me. It's painful to look at how much fun I used to have with technology and how little I do now.


+1 - You've vocalized my thoughts much more beautifully than I ever could have. Aside from the general cultural aspect of it (better content, interesting forum discussions, Adium conversations with friends at 2AM), programming as a profession lost a bit of magic for me as well.

Life just became all about getting that next refresher, the next good rating / bonus, the next promo in an almost mindless push towards higher comps.

There isn't that sheer fascination / joy in discovering what you can do with technology anymore. Maybe it's because working in a generic big-co is intensely competitive and once you've given so much there, it's hard to come back home and engage in more deep thought. Maybe it's because we just got older, had families and do what normal adults do (reading some linux driver code at 2AM in the morning to get the wifi / trackpad working doesn't sound as fun anymore).


I'd urge you to find something to tinker with. I've lost that magic a few times in my career but this last year I've started tinkering with machine learning, a side web app for finding lost pets and in the last week the ESP8266 chip for a few home experiments.

Here's why. The apps are a nice distraction. You can forget about the work stresses and just play a bit. You loved this stuff for a reason, I think you can get that back. You also have more control in your own projects. No committee.

46 this month. Not super old but old enough to know what jaded feels like!


While everything you say is true, there are other forces at play as well -- many people have much more time at younger ages. 15 years in, many of us have kids/responsibilities which are another non-tech reason for "greying out" (ironically perfect name!). It's easy to conflate these two forces, which are different but both contribute to this effect.

this reminded me so much of a post (now lost) about "first MMO games". The gist was that everyone remembers their first MMO game (regardless of how technically crap it was) with huge nostalgia, and regards every game since as sub-standard. Even though they no longer play the original game, and actually play the newer, sub-standard games.

I had this exact experience with DAoC and WoW - DAoC was a total grind, while WoW was a much better experience, but I still feel nostalgic for the experience of DAoC. I even tried going back to DAoC, but the grind was too much and the magic was gone.

I guess what we miss about "the old days" is not so much the technology, but the experience of being new at this, and the excitement of having this whole world open up to us.

I'd be interested to see if going back to before-Facebook tech will keep the magic alive? I somehow doubt it, but it's definitely a worthwhile experiment.


DAOC, but without all the suck, has been incorporated into a newish freeshard; playphoenix.online. It has a healthy population (2-3k pretty steady), and has eliminated most of the grind, but retains PvE funtimes.

>The very much social world of instant messenger and plain old web pages pre like-ified and follow-ified social media seems like a quaint anachronism, now.

It is a lost concept nowadays, but it's very possible a subsequent development to be a regression compared to what was before.

Sometimes in every way, sometimes in a few important ways.


For me it boils down to simple time availability to invest. Can’t speak for everybody though.

The day AIM died, I logged in one last time.

A friend of mine was actually online! So i IM'd him. I got a frantic phone call about 30 seconds later.

  "how did you DO that?!"
  
  "do what?"
  
  "you made my PHONE play the AIM BING noise!"
  
  "..."
He'd long ago wired SMS notifications into AIM, forgotten that he had done it a decade or more ago, and was deeply confused until we walked through the possibilities.

I was on AIM the day it went offline. Ran into a person who was very important to me and my development. Reminisced for a couple hours.

They added me on Facebook. I was hopeful to keep in touch, but they've since disappeared off Facebook like a lot of my friends in the recent trend.


I've found that it's difficult to keep in touch with a lot of people that I'd like to because Facebook chat is really the only widely used chat service at this point, and many of the people I'd like to talk with have decided that they don't want anything to do with Facebook.

Lost touch with quite a few past friends from that


> because Facebook chat is really the only widely used chat service at this point

This is... well, if you consider WhatsApp and FB to be the same then not wrong, but as it stands they're still separated ecosystems and let me tell you, WhatsApp is huge. There's a number of competitors in China and other parts of west Asia that are probably even bigger. Anyway, WhatsApp is used for family, friends and non-work related / event based colleagues.

Then there's Slack, mostly for closed communities (due to their pricing models), which in my experience has improved communication and knowledge sharing within my company by a lot (consultancy company).

Third major chat pillar in my life at the moment is Discord, probably the leading chat platform for open communities and individuals. It's replaced IRC or Skype for a lot of people, especially the gaming community. Because they aim at open communities, I think they have the potential to outrun Slack in short order. If they want to compete they'll have to build a "professional" version that replaces the gaming landing page with something a bit more corporate.

Especially Discord will, in 10-20 years, trigger that nostalgia that people now feel about IRC, AOL, MSN or ICQ.


facebook is in the uncanny valley of achieving its goal of universally connecting people but disconnecting people even more because it was so close to universally connecting people.

its like they succeeded and then totally fucked it up. greed just gobbled that engine up.

I'm in the same place from the opposite direction. I've refused to use Facebook from day one, and lost touch with a number of now-geographically distant friends for whom it is their primary mode of communication.

I was genuinely a little scared that i'd log in and see my high school girlfriend online.

Man I didn't even remember that AIM is gone for good until now. I kind of got a pang of regret I didn't watch it go offline.

I idled until i was forcibly logged off. <door creaking sound>

The internet was way more social before "social media" came along.

100% agreed. I had much better real personal conversations on the "old" Internet. Facebook and smartphones killed it. Nowadays a lot of people are only available via SMS, and I don't have the patience to type out long messages there. Calling someone up and chatting is better.

I loved the IM era and it's a huge shame it's over. I don't have as many personal connections with people now as I did then. AIM, ICQ, and later Gtalk were all amazing.


And I don't have the time or inclination to continually be installing an ever growing list of apps to keep in touch with everybody, and with each app installed lessening my privacy even more. I've removed them all. SMS is the primary way to get a hold of me, or you mostly just don't. Emailing works too, but I have the notifications on silent and just check a few times throughout the day when I feel like it. Oh, and I just about always answer if someone calls. I'd much rather actually hear and have a realtime conversation with you instead of days and days of back and forth texts that could have been settled with a simple 5 minute phone call lol. I'm rapidly becoming anti-tech, and I live and breathe tech. People no longer seem to know how to actually talk to each other, unless they already agree 100% with each others positions on any given subject. I don't see all of this heading in a positive direction for humanity, and I think we see that unfolding all around us, every day.

I'm very similar. There's an assumption that because I'm very into technology, that I must have all the latest gadgets. In fact the opposite is true: I see through lots of the hype cycles and avoid fads, wait for things to stabilise and/or standardise before jumping in, and maintain what I have for years.

I tell people that I've 'seen how the sausage gets made' ;)


I subscribe, too.

People are surprised that a techie nerd like me, with a PhD in ML, immersed in the IT world for the past 30 years, has an aversion to tech gadgets. Have I heard of the latest fad X? Do I like the last AI-powered Y?

But the first thing I did when buying an apartment was rip out the silly "smart home" system, installing back mechanical controls everywhere. Much happier.

My take on it is, with experience comes appreciation for simplicity. And respect for "doing things right", which seems a losing battle in a marketing-first world.


> But the first thing I did when buying an apartment was rip out the silly "smart home" system, installing back mechanical controls everywhere. Much happier.

I am afraid the day may come when I can't get audio equipment with a mechanical volume control (without a layer of software in between). Even today, some laptops rely on software to mute their speakers when the headphone jack is connected.

I dread the scenario of being in a public place, like a library or about to give a talk, resuming my laptop from suspend, and loud music (or worse!) blaring out of the speakers, with all audio controls unresponsive as the system churns (or crashes!) under the load of resuming.


> I dread the scenario of being in a public place, like a library or about to give a talk, resuming my laptop from suspend, and loud music (or worse!) blaring out of the speakers, with all audio controls unresponsive as the system churns (or crashes!) under the load of resuming.

It's very much this why I fully prep my laptop before I need to give a talk or go into a meeting where I might need my laptop (as much as I despise laptop-filled meetings). All applications closed except for whatever I need in that setting.


Yeah. On some devices, even the "power-off" button is software (talk about powerlessness!).

I dread the day this growth-at-any-cost marketing machine takes over politically, and these half-assed over-hyped systems (self driving cars come to mind) become mandatory, with no alternative.


Same. I thought about it after a few surprised reactions, and concluded: I got interested in technology when I was a kid because you could take it apart, tinker with it, understand it. That's less true than it used to be - things in general are more complex and opaque and less repairable. A "technology"/"magic" distinction, perhaps.

"Nobody Hates Software More Than Software Developers"

https://blog.codinghorror.com/nobody-hates-software-more-tha...


Unless you actually call me, I do not feel an obligation to respond on any timeline.

Email and IM are great, but I want them to work for me, not against.


My issue with modern "chat apps" is they usually fail to let you know if someone is up for a conversation. Presence is reduced from "I'm available, let's talk!" to "last online".

If I don't know if someone is up for chatting, I'm not going to start a conversation with them, in case I bother them.


Yeah. You just explained why I haven't talked to hardly anyone on Facebook chat anymore. I don't know that they're actively wanting to chat, just that they're on Facebook, possibly just passively browsing things. I still ping people on Facebook chat, but only if I need to ask them something or want to share something I discovered with them specifically. I used to chat with several people every night in my youth. I don't have quite as much time to do that anymore, but I do have some time. I'd love to know who actively wants to talk with people.

This explains why I rarely PM someone directly. With group chats you can just jump in and if someone wants to talk they will just join in but not feel pressured to join if they don't feel like it.

That's because you are assumed to be always online, always available, you being busy implies doing something else, which isn't in their model.

I'm finding that Discord is bringing it back. I'm finding small communities again, and starting to recognize individuals and building some friendships that way.

It’s just another walled garden. It just has a low price point.

Ok? Kind of a non-sequitur there. Unsure how that's related to this conversation:

>> I loved the IM era and it's a huge shame it's over.

> I find that Discord is bringing it back.


The article talks about how chat used to be a protocol, so you could talk between chat clients.

As though you could log into discord and start a conversation with someone who was only using facebook messenger, or snapchat, or twitter, or whatsapp or instagram or any other service where messaging was possible.

Discord in reality represents a different way of doing things. You can chat with other discord users. That's it.

It's a decent system when the userbase is big and the company is benevolent, but it's a different thing than everyone who does "messaging" agreeing to let messages from any service go to any other service.


> everyone who does "messaging" agreeing to let messages from any service go to any other service.

But this never existed, nor is the author claiming that. AIM, ICQ, etc required you to create an account on their own service. XMPP might be used, but I don't think any major service besides Google Talk supported federation. What the author had was a single client that happened to connect to multiple services, but you can do the same nowadays (e.g. using Pidgin and its plugins).

(As an aside, it's refreshing to see how BS-free the announcement that GTalk supported federation was: http://googletalk.blogspot.com/2006/01/xmpp-federation.html)


Proprietary chat servers were only "protocolized" after reverse engineering. I don't think any were ever openly soliciting other clients to connect to their network. There were also occasions when third party clients got locked out after a protocol change.

AIM was a walled garden too wasn't it?

Fairly, but the OSCAR protocol was reverse engineered pretty well, and so you could get on AIM through Pidgin, or Adium, or Meebo, etc etc etc

discord's success just reminds people how fun it can be. unfortunately it is a corporate yard that is already taking steps to "monetization"

> unfortunately it is a corporate yard that is already taking steps to "monetization"

For me, this is a real shame and a bit of motivation. In 2015 my friends and I were using teamspeak very heavily and essentially became power users. Everything setting or personality feature you could mess with we did and it was a ton of fun. We started a list of features we really wanted to add or tweak, mainly around text chat and email messaging within the program. There was also a ton of UI changes I wanted to make, don't get me wrong I love the program but it's hard on the eyes sometimes. Anyway, around this time I was really wanting to dig my teeth into a big project. I thought it would be super useful to remake teamspeak as an opensource webapp. I even went as far as creating some UI mocks but then Discord blew up and I gave up that idea.

I don't know, maybe I'll set aside some time to try this project again. I really wanted to create an open and free program that allowed anyone to hack on it or setup private services without needing to pay hefty licensing fees or go through untrusted networks. The Web 3.0 version of vent/ts with some Stallman ideals.


I want that to exist, too. Skype gets crappier with every release, and there's nothing out there like a modern-day ICQ/AIM.

I worry about how hard it would be to do these days, though-- in addition to the Windows/Mac/Linux clients that you've always needed, your app has to work on iPhone and Android (including their many variations), and don't forget the web app! Plus audio/video chat.

Image/file uploading is pretty tricky, too. If you dragged an image into an IRC channel, nothing would happen and that was normal. But now people except it to be automatically uploaded to cloud storage, resized, stripped of metadata, and shown in the chat view for all to see. Features like this are deceptively hard, and there are many of them.

All of that is just to be feature-competitive with the stuff people are already using, before you get to the absurd difficulty of getting people to switch away from Discord.


there s also rocket chat

The macOS messages app fills a lot of this void for me, if you have an iPhone.

The macOS Messages app has killed off support for Jabber and the IMServicePlugin framework (which allows for extending the protocols it supports), which means going forward it's iMessage/SMS only :(

>Nowadays a lot of people are only available via SMS, and I don't have the patience to type out long messages there.

Whether its from school or work, everyone has an email address that they must check regularly. Anything longer than a three sentence text I'll just email.


Available for instant messages, that is. A lot of people treat email like it has a several day SLA. Many others just simply never check it.

Well yeah. Non work email is like a letter, I fell no pressure to answer quickly but answer I will.

Agreed, except I don't always answer.

Heck if work hadn't moved to slack I probably wouldn't answer most emails there either.


How is the IM era over? I exclusively use IM as my social media and its bigger than ever. Telegram, Discord and IRC are massive.

To each their own. There are people like me who prefer text communication and the affordability to answer them when convenient, instead of being pressured to leave everything you're doing to attend a real-time call.

I don't think the IM era is over. Now, there is Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts. These have some very cool features and you can easily set up a chat with all your friends.

I think it's better to say, the desktop era has ended and the mobile era has begun. A lot of people don't sit in front of a computer popping online and offline anymore. Everyone is always online and I feel like that has fatigued people.

Yes, in the old days you might have been lucky enough to be post-dialup, but being AROUND meant you were actually interested in being somewhere, rather than being nowhere online and instead only brushing up against that.

Very much this. With always online mobile instant messaging I always feel like I'm bothering someone when writing them. For me I've solved it by treating it as an asynchronous chat and won't always reply immediately.

On desktop chat you would know that people would only be online if they made the conscious decision that they are up to chatting.


Slack is so bloated and annoying to use, unlike IM services back in the heyday.

So true. I used to have Trillian running on 3 or 4 networks, hardly taxing my late 90s computer. Every time I see Slack I get an urge to close the tab because I can almost feel the browser engine groaning in agony.

There's a Slack protocol plugin for Pidgin (and other libpurple clients).

The problem is that modern social media is more about bragging about how awesome you are.

My GFs Instagram account is literally professional photos of her... I mean she's a model but it's basically her portfolio.

Now EVERYONE does it though... girls go out specifically to build up their instagram...we're not ourselves anymore.


Your comment could be interpreted as a rather ironic humblebrag.

The ability to send SMS messages on MacOS via your iPhone is a very unrated killer app IMHO.

Thats true.

One benefit of the old days is you knew all other participants were sitting in front of a desktop, with a full keyboard. You knew they weren't say: driving, or boarding onto a flight, or paying a restaurant bill.

A problem with features like "Apple allows you to SMS from Desktop" is you still must use lowest-common denominator conversational approach.

All these modern apps have greatly increased the frequency of our conversations, but overall lowered their quality.


I still use IRC. It's not as big as it used to be, sure, but there are still several thousand people who actively use it.

I also still get a lot of mileage out of IRC, especially the #web channel on Freenode.

I think anonymity was a big plus, including getting to know them part. It took work, but it was a lot of fun. Just like making friends in real life.

Yes, totally agree, but you have also to consider that 25+ years ago we were the only like-minded people that enjoyed to explore the possibilities of the then brand new world changing technical service called gopher... sorry I meant “internet”. Now it’s kind of extremely inflationated.. everyone has access to it for no reason at all apart, in most of the cases, to increase its own ego. Something that for us was just short of magic, now it’s as easy and natural as breathing. I’m still happy about the result because now it’s trivial to learn something that you care about if you’re passionate enough. But interacting with people driven from the same passions that we experienced in the past is something that it’s very difficult to find today. Maybe HN it’s one of the few places where sometimes you can breath a similar atmosphere.

I am glad I got to experience the "old" internet. I miss it deeply though.

Was it the old internet or the younger you?

I used ICQ and whatever else at the time. These days I chat with a few people via Hangouts and enjoy it, though the discussions have changed because I'm ~20 years older.


I think it is a combination of both. The younger internet was more open and free because there were less people using it, and by extension, less people actively trying to break it.

Now stuff has to be locked down, because otherwise bad shit happens.


It really was. ICQ, MSN, and even Skype had this feature of finding people by their profiles (country, age, interests, etc.). What’s more important, people were open to talking to complete strangers back then, and it felt like magic to talk to someone from the other end of the world. And it was nice to be contacted randomly by new people.

Some modern social networks have similar features, but I can’t imagine doing this in this age. And in the last 5 years I’ve never been contacted randomly by anyone either.


Well, in those days IRL, everyone's name, address and phone number were publicly available in the phone book, you would answer all phone calls without knowing who was calling, and it wasn't a problem is it was someone you didn't know; same for visits.

Nowadays, each of those is seen and felt as a terrible violation of your privacy, your intimacy, your property even... and people often rather play possum than take the 'risk' of picking up the phone or opening the door when the phone or the door bell rings.

When you call someone who hasn't got your number already, you are initially met with hostility (in the lucky case the person even picks up the phone) and have to justify "how the hell did you get my number?"


I literally got laid after being contacted out of the blue by a semi-random stranger on ICQ back in the day. We had met once when we were twelve or so. She was actually looking for a friend of mine, but we decided to meet up. Being college kids, stuff happened.

Nowadays I would just have dismissed and blocked her as yet another spambot.


Aren't you talking to complete strangers right now? I can't say I remember meeting you :)

Well, isn't HN an oasis of the good old Web? ;)

You're right though, but these connections are rarely long-lasting.


I agree. That being said, and all caveats about Apple software, privacy, etc aside, using iMessages to text people from my laptop feels a little like the old AIM days.

I use Hangouts to chat with people via my desktop over SMS. Only with my core group of friends though. I used to chat with all sorts of people. There's this one random guy that pings me whenever I pop on Steam and if I'm not busy I'll chat with him for awhile.

Errant Signal has done some good videos on this in the context of video games- both online video games and video games set in the era before social media.

"Social Spaces and Payload Races" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hj1haLcdI0

"Secret Little Haven" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzHFRfOVOuQ


Depends. It had smaller communities, so it felt more personal and closely knit. Nowadays it's much more of a soapbox platform, especially Twitter which is shouting into the void. Facebook felt like a more closed community - I checked it out at some point and felt like hey, this doesn't feel like there's billions of people on here. Low on ads too at the time. Since then though the noise has drowned out whatever signal was there, and adding more people only increases said noise. I had a realization the other day that two thirds of the posts my friends on there make are also ads - posts about movies they watched, shared trailers, games they played, etc. Intersperse that with the regular ads and it's an ad stream. I glaze over every time I try and visit it now.

I'm struggling to wrap my head around the shift between those two eras. The more the ~new web tried to be .. the worse it got.

AIM/MSN days were so stupidly simple. Forced integration with real life made everything into pain and didn't improve relationships.


That depends. Blogs and Twitter were great until they became marketing tools.

Otherwise known as "unblock lists"

I don't understand what you mean and can't find the term literally on Google. Do you have a link to something explaining it?

I assume the commenter means that, with modern social networks, you specify a list of people with whom you socialize, instead of previous networks (perhaps like IRC) where you stopped by and could socialize with whoever happened to be there. Of course, this is not really the case. Twitter is a great example where the default is that anyone can stumble upon your profile and tweets.

yep , this. and even twitter is somewhere-in-between

The idea is that you didn't hear everyone, or even a significant amount of people, by default. You effectively had to find what you wanted and make efforts (joining chats, RSS feeds, etc) to tune-in. Or... make lists of things to... unblock.

Otherwise known as "white lists"

I can't help think that the people who say that were younger and more social then.

First half is definitely true :)


I'd never thought about it before but you're absolutely right

Sure, if you happened to be privileged enough to have the internet then.

By the time Facebook and Twitter were founded, about 2/3rds of the US was online: http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/us/

So a) one didn't have to be hugely privileged to be online before social media took over, and b) I don't think the level of privilege of participants has much to do with the change that this article is talking about.


1. There are countries outside the US (and Europe)

2. Most of these countries came online only in the mobile era

3. Many of these countries have Facebook and broadly, Internet usage that eclipses US and Europe.


I don’t think they’ve been online long enough to have much relevance to the point of this article though.

I agree all those things are true, but I don't see how they are relevant to the point. Are you perhaps claiming that social media evolved differently in some of those countries and so one of them serves as some sort of contrasting example to the article?

Although most of my friends prefer Matrix these days, XMPP is still my favorite way of chatting. You can easily run your own Prosody instance [1] on a $5/month VPS and have a very modern chat experience - offline messages, syncing between devices, OMEMO end-to-end encryption, group chats, push notifications, HTTP file upload, etc. My wife and I use it for all our communications.

There are some great clients for Android [2], iOS [3] and Linux/Windows [4] that support all the modern XEPs. Sadly, there aren't any mature, actively developed clients for OS X that I've found. Adium is pretty much abandoned. Monal is in active development though and seems promising.

It's so nice to use an open protocol with native clients. Most other self-hosted chat solutions require electron apps, which can be painful to use unless you have top of the line hardware.

[1] https://github.com/cullum/dank-selfhosted/blob/master/roles/...

[2] https://conversations.im/

[3] https://chatsecure.org/

[4] https://gajim.org


"Easily" and "modern" chat experience with XMPP?

I used to run my own Prosody server for some years before switching out to Matrix and there was nothing "easy" and "modern" with XMPP. Sure, I could get the fancy features such as end-to-end encryption, push notifications and file sharing... with Conversation for Android. But I could never properly sync my messages and conversations with a PC client.

I'm glad I don't have to deal with XMPP anymore, I know that the HN crowd likes to dream with it but the reality is that it was a major pain.


> it was a major pain

It demonstrated that it can overcome major pain points though: Gajim (Desktop), Conversations (Android) and Monal (iOS) [edit to add: and conversejs on the web] cooperate quite well these days.

Matrix? Let's see how they overcome their first major paradigm shift (such as the introduction of mobile devices with spotty ever-changing network environments, or E2E encryption both of which took a while for XMPP to handle gracefully)


E2E hasn't come gracefully to me yet, because my Pidgin still only has OTR support, and so does the one one of my primary Jabber contacts uses, except Conversations has now dropped it in favor of going all-OMEMO. My current answer is to ignore the mobile case like I did most of the time before, but that's not a good answer.

I guess maybe I need to switch to Gajim, but this sure isn't frictionless, mostly due to the lag-induced fragmentation.


Pidgin essentially stopped supporting new XMPP features a decade ago. This includes multi-device support and many new convenience features (delivery receipts, file uploads). There are some plugins that might be able to compensate, but at significant effort.

OTR wasn't made for the multi device use case at all (and even OTRv4 is explicitly single-device). If you happen to log in with multiple clients, it will most probably confuse the other side's OTR plugin


Pidgin has OMEMO support.

https://github.com/gkdr/lurch

This works fairly well for me.


I know you mean well, and I'm glad this exists and that you reminded me of it (I now remember having seen it before), but this isn't enough to invalidate my point. The installation instructions are… barely okay. AUR… okay, I guess. What would people on Debian-based platforms, like the very popular Ubuntu, do? Compile from source?

Let's see what the README says: “I know this is a bit clunky, but using the command interface for interactions makes the plugin usable in clients that do not have a GUI.”

So now I get to explain this to the other people I was using Pidgin+OTR with too, right? (Also I get to have to remember what the commands are, because I won't be using them frequently.)

I mean, this can also be phrased as one of the disadvantages of being part of the earlier installed base, but on a wider scale, buildup of legacy resistance is one of the things that you wind up having to overcome if you want to introduce new features that aren't strictly optional—which is kind of why we still don't really have secure email that doesn't take massive cognitive overhead in “remembering which things people are using” and massive social overhead in negotiating about it and being prepared for all sorts of responses.

(Added:) And to make sure I'm not accidentally taking this into the weeds, the incompatibility was introduced AFAIK when Conversations dropped OTR. That means any Pidgin clusters suddenly take on a big UI and polish downgrade for their E2E if they want to stay interoperable. I'm not meaning to criticize this specific plugin so much as to point out that there wasn't enough overall coordination between seemingly-major clients to stop this from happening.


I've been using Riot.im with E2E for a group chat for probably >6 months, and other than the quite rare message-order issue, we've not had any issues.

We all use different devices... some of us browsers, others the electron app, and all of us the mobile app on a mix of iOS and Android.

I'm really surprised how much of a no-fuss situation it's been.


> for probably >6 months

The first real issues for XMPP came up about a decade after it was formalized. Matrix is too young to demonstrate how it will cope with unforeseen issues. E2E working? Mobile support? No surprise, both were must-have features when matrix started.

I have no idea what Matrix will be struggling with in a couple years, but that's exactly the point: nobody does.

Surely there will be a new client then whose developers, users and evangelists will point out how it's so much more seamless than Matrix, and don't we just let Matrix die and go for that newfangled thingy, but I'm not really eager to change my mode of communication every 10 years just because it's driven by the CADT model (https://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html)


I take your point that we can't know if Matrix will stand the test of time because "future-proofing" is a lie, but we also need to acknowledge that XMPP was born at a time when instant messaging was in it's infancy. It came from the primordial sludge of BBS and IRC, and made something incrementally more usable by less technical crowds.

Matrix has had the benefit of years of mainstream IM adoption (thanks to the likes of XMPP!) to get an idea of what was needed in a federated IM protocol.

I think your CADT point is very dismissive. Matrix isn't just some rebranding of something old, it fixes legitimate issues... XMPP is just not usable with my non-technical friend group. They won't use it, I've tried. Matrix, on the other hand is friendly enough.

I can't tell you what Matrix will struggle with in a couple of years, but I'll tell you it'll be a subset of the things XMPP is struggling with at the moment.


All those things work fine with Gajim. Probably not the case with other desktop clients though admittedly.

I'd like to add Movim to the list :) It's a self-hosted web client for small groups/businesses/schools fully built on XMPP. https://movim.eu/

I feel this myself. I used to run an ejabberd server on the same domain as my email address; that, along with a multi-network client like Pidgin, let me chat seamlessly with just about anyone. The number of people I could contact through those two tools eventually became so small that I turned them both off.

Nowadays the first conversation I get to have upon meeting a new person is a long negotiation about what baroque, proprietary messaging app I will have to use to reach them. Sigh. At least we still have email...


I wish we still had email, but an increasing number of folks in my circles are refusing to use it too. And you can forget trying to call anybody - nobody answers because every phone call is a robocall or a scam.

The balkanization of communications is real. I've become some sort of middleman/organizer in one of my hobby circles because I'm the only one who uses all of these disparate services; many of which I only use to connect to two or three folks.


Who are you in contact with? Tech workers with enough autonomy to fall off the map without consequence? I can't think of anyone I know who doesn't get critical emails that require a reply. You'd fail college without checking emails. You won't get hired if you don't check your emails. You'd get fired from my job without checking emails. You'd fall out of touch with collaborators in the field without checking emails. Who are these people who refuse to check emails, and what do they possibly do that gives them this privilege of avoiding the most basic and fundamental electronic communication? It seems just absurd to me.

Many people get an overwhelming amount of email.

Also once you move from college into the working world you have a work email separate from home email typically. I check my work email daily of course since it’s critical to my job, but I can go days without checking personal emails.

Most of the content of my personal email is hardly time sensitive and a lot of it is advertising or news I haven’t opted out of (although I have gmail filters and tabs). It’s not like IM where I would use to check and respond immediately because I only ever got messages from friends.


I will admit I have a burner gmail for account signups with like 18k unread messages, but I've resigned that email to the advertising spam dogs a decade ago.

I don't look inside my personal e-mail inbox unless I'm expecting to receive a message at a particular time: "click on the verification link we sent you" and variations on the theme. If other mail appears on the screen at the same time, I may take a look at it assuming I'm not in a hurry to do something else. Otherwise I never look there. No one e-mails me anyway. Everyone who's anyone has my wife's phone number; that's an exceedingly short list of people.

Slack and GitHub together are adequate for day-to-day work things. Everything else just isn't sufficiently important to justify a channel into my brain.


I also have a burner gmail for account sign ups, but it's not hard to regain control of your inbox and direct people to use a email you regularly check. I bet you have an email listed on your resume, after all. A good rule is to look for "unsubscribe" in the body of the email, and throw those emails into a containment folder. If you ever wanted to scroll through those and unsubscribe one by one, it will be easier to do so, or you can just ignore those emails since they will now be isolated from your inbox.

I had a roommate like that. The man missed out on a number of important opportunities because he just plain never checked his email. These people exist and it bothers me

Why would you expect investing a few seconds of your time to push your words unsolicited at someone to create a sense of obligation in the recipient?

The problem with email is it’s too easy to send, and I get 100+ non-spam per day between work and personal. I do not have time to read, let alone respond to 100+ emails per day.

So I triage them as best I can, and a lot get binned based on sender or subject alone.

The walled gardens improve on email and XMPP because they’re walled.


You can't control those walls though. With email, you can craft the most convoluted rules and sure it's not always clear how to get a rule to do what you want, but you have total power in building up your own walled garden to your personal preferences, not whatever preferences are studied to get the most ad revenue and waste the most amount of your time without wasting so much that you get frustrated and leave the platform.

Oh sure, I was never arguing for that. I'm just saying that you need to at least attempt to triage your emails. You can at least make the conscious decision of "I'm not going to deal with this email." However, I will say that walled gardens do not necessarily improve on this problem. If everyone is within the same walls then it's the same situation all over again.

Many of my "no email" contacts are hobby-related and not tech workers. Some of them are retired, previously used work-provided email, and have no interest in setting up their own accounts (I honestly have no idea how they survive). At least one of the tech folks who doesn't "use" email simply doesn't check their private email with any regularity, and doesn't use their work email for non-business contacts (neither do I for that matter).

The young adults I know (18-24) mostly eschew email. They will check it if they're expecting something, but otherwise, you might wait weeks for a response.

Are they in college? You need it for college, your school email is the only official way for academic communication. Professors aren't going to contact you seriously on any other platform beyond office hours, because they literally aren't allowed.

>And you can forget trying to call anybody - nobody answers because every phone call is a robocall or a scam.

Same for email, as soon as every site required signup, then felt the need to send a daily marketing email people just gave up on email. Now it's just for getting signup links and password resets and anything unexpected is just drowned out in the mess of advertising.


Set up a rule to find "unsubscribe" in the body and push the email out of your inbox and into a folder or your junk/spam. Advertisers hate this one weird trick!

> I get to have upon meeting a new person is a long negotiation about what baroque, proprietary messaging app I will have to use to reach them.

I skip that negotiation entirely by letting them know that if they want to talk to me, the options are SMS and email.


Trillian used to be my goto for combining everyone's communication preferences. Worked great for the time. Sad none of those things work like they used to.

My social circle on IRC has been consistently growing for years. IRC is not trying to monetize you. It's just trying to connect people. That, more than anything else, is why my friends and I still use it. It's been around for 30 years and I'm confident that it isn't going away any time soon. What other technology has remained relevant for 30 years? IRC is older than HTTP, and only slightly younger than GNU. Only Unix has it beat by more than a year or two.

There's probably an inverse relationship between medium and communication quality. The less "chrome" the better the chats.

Is it easy to set up a secure (i.e. encrypted) channel through IRC?

I've been thinking of learning how to use it, but the fact that it's not encrypted by default is off-putting. It's not IRC's fault though, considering when it was designed.


No, but it's fairly easy to set up OTR to talk to people 1:1 in an encrypted session.

where do i go to make friends on irc

You have to be patient - I've been using IRC for almost 15 years. Finding public channels is fairly easy, just hang out there and talk to people. Eventually you might be invited to or stumble upon some social channels. It's easier if you bring your existing friends with you.

Rizon is a good network for socializing, if you're looking for a place to get started.


#yospos on synirc

that's my favorite

I hope that as people notice that the centralized data-gathering walled-gardens that track our every move are not all they are cracked up to be, we will head back to decentralized solutions which do more of what we actually want. This applies not only to messaging, but also to blog postings and RSS.

Pendulums swing back.


I agree. How do we start the movement back to a more decentralized software daily life. This is solely a feeling: I remember my youth being filled with an ever-changing and growing amount web portals, communication tools, and methods of of sharing data (music). Today, a few big entities control all of those experiences. I don't think my life is any better for having a Google controlled cloud service (gdrive) vs another open source or vendor solution. I found it enthralling to be online and discovering new experiences as a kid. Somehow that is gone today. Could just be my age.

A big thing here is a huge chunk of the internet is getting content discovery from just a couple places with ulterior motives. We used to seek out people who made good content and add it to a hand managed rss feed, I used to peruse 1000 articles and posts a week from friends, people that I trusted, people that I distrusted, scientific journals, and niche hobbies. I talked to someone this week that wasy saying they wouldn't even know how to find new music without youtube. 10 years younger than me and discovery is a lost art. I'm not sure what resets this, and I fear the very idea of it will be completely lost in the near future.

You can follow virtually anything on RSS still. Blogs, every biology journal that I know of, pubmed or google scholar search term RSS feeds (super useful, can be a topic, journal, even author), subreddits, HN, youtube channels, twitter, email newsletters (kill the newsletter), the list goes on and on and there are even services to turn things that don't have RSS feeds into an RSS feed (like kill the newsletter). My workflow is have things categorized in inoreader and push interesting articles to pocket (or just open the HN/reddit thread). No paywall, and no ads. There's never been a better time to follow RSS feeds.

Your discovery would be from either your own search engine cleverness derived from spotting a topic in your articles, or directly shared to you by what you follow, like good topics in HN. NYT and LA times are both really good at sharing content from other newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other sources in their newsletters (which I follow via an atom feed from kill the newsletter).

Facebook, twitter, youtube, and the ilk are all pretty poor at discovery, to be honest. Discovery to the decision makers at these platforms is more towards manipulating into more and more advertising engagement than any knowledge dissemination.


Ironically people still send e-mail newsletters, and I got to this link through my RSS feed.

> How do we start the movement back toward decentralized software daily life?

The difference between now and “back then” is that service providers were not optimizing for eyeballs or subscribers or clicks. Chat software was created to actually create communication between people. Subscription software didn’t exist and was balked-at.

So, to answer the question - to swing the pendulum back we need to start building software for its utility again, on open, non-subscription platforms.


For me, part of that involves quitting the old circles (FB for example) and getting used to not being in touch with every old acquaintance. Once you’ve accepted that, you’ll try any new service. I recall how switching to Mac and getting over not having windows apps helped me ultimately switch to Linux.

These services never went away. I browse reddit and HN through their RSS feeds almost exclusively.

Ya I've been thinking a lot lately that part of a real web 3.0 might be a realization that protocols are just protocols and that we can wrap anything we want inside of a VM.

So instead of XMPP or whatever as glue between various interfaces, we'll just embed those interfaces inside something else with a standard interface. This could be similar to how GraphQL works, although more generalized.

In today's terms, that would be something like a Docker container for Slack, one for Facebook Messenger, one for Skype, and SMS, and so on all the way down. Then communicating between those containers with pipes sending some kind of standardized compressed binary JSON format, or similar.

This will work with other things besides chat - like websites, mobile apps, whatever you want. That would be the prerequisite for a web that works more like a shell. So we'll someday be able to pipe data around by wiring up URLs and treating them like executables.

And that will be the prerequisite for software agents that can run on the web and do all the things we have to do by hand today.

So maybe this is the darkness before dawn. Maybe the best is yet to come.


I’ve started blogging again and encourage others to do so as well. The HN crowd can lead by example.

I've been thinking about this. Creating a new website/blog where I post photos, write, and generally have a way for people to get in touch with me, etc...

My last version of my blog was moved over to Tumblr awhile ago. I moved it to tumblr when Posterous shut down after acquisition.

What are people using these days? I'd prefer: 1) something simple to host, and hosted somewhere. 2) ways to easily upload photos and share something that works almost as easily as a social media app....


If you don't want to lose your blog in the future like you did already, you should own the url.

That may significantly complicate your task, but this is the price for future-proofing your means of contact.


Good point on the URL. I had a custom URL on posterous. And even had it on Tumblr.Com. I let my old URL expire...maybe it's time to revisit that

Not really a blog per say, but repl.it has a simple html, css, js hosted solution that is free and easy to to edit code on. I hear they are working on a template, but for now you can just drop some simple code in their online IDE to get a WEB 1.0 blog up and running. Serves over https, and custom domains if you have one to use. Can edit from mobile or browser as the ide is browser based. I have a blog example at johnelam.io for reference.

Netlify with a static site generator is probably a good place to start. I'd go down this route as you get total flexibility if you want it but can just use an off-the-shelf theme if you don't.

If you want something more akin to Tumblr maybe have a look at Ghost.


I've had a reasonably decent experience with pointing my domain at a Jekyll instance running on GitHub pages. It's a bit of effort, but I think it works reasonably well (and the only thing you're paying for is your domain registration costs!).

I actually did this a long time ago and have a landing page up with my own private domain. The problem is that I don't really like the workflow. I think I'd like something where I can craft some content on the go while traveling with a lightweight computing device and not rely on the setup.

Actually, one of the issues is that I switched computers and didn't bring installing Jekyll and setting it all up on my new computer, and evidently this was enough friction that kept me from maintaining it.



The first comment there:

> now everybody needs to use a mix of iMessage, WhatsApp, and Slack

It's funny whenever I see someone list the chat systems that "everybody needs to use" because they're always different.

The top chat systems that I need to use to communicate with my friends/colleagues are Messenger, Hangouts, and Threema. I haven't used Slack in years, since I left tech. I've never seen anyone use WhatsApp in real life, or heard anyone ask that I install it. I occasionally use the Messages app but usually just for SMS.

There's probably 10 or 12 different incompatible chat systems in common use today, and which 3-4 you use on a daily basis depends on your geography and culture and industry. And that's kind of awful.


It depends on country. In Czech Republic, what's popular is Messenger. In western Europe, WhatsApp is quite popular. In eastern Europe, people like Viber (and some people Telegram).

I am living in SEAsia now, and here it also depends on country. In some countries, WhatsApp rules; but in others, Line (weird Japanese thing) is popular. In Vietnam, where I am now, Zalo is popular; it's basically Whatsapp-but-Vietnamese; people like it, because it has Vietnamese stickers.

Of course China has its own ecosystem.

One of the features that determine how a chat program is popular are stupid stuff like localized stickers, or how well is the whole UX localized to the given language. (And how much is the program blocked in the given country.)


Actually LINE is Korean, owned by Naver. Big in Thailand and some other Asian countries.

The Asian chat apps are Wechat (owned by Tencent), Alichat (owned by Alibaba) and LINE (owned by Naver via a Japanese sub).

They are all competing now to capture the market share, We/Ali are competing hard in China and for many Chinese users, Wechat is the internet. It has embedded apps and a payment network. Alibaba are coming from behind.

WePay/AliPay/LINE Pay are their correlating payment networks.

Whatsapp is not big at all in Asia, it also doesn't have the various support things that people want, like a) stickers and sticker markets (big money on sticker sales), b) "cute" characters and associated toys/cards/etc, c) a payment system that lets kids easily buy virtual stuff like stickers and then extends to support retail/transit etc. That "stupid stuff" is actually worth a fortune.

Disclosure: Working with LINE on transit related applications.


Sorry for that. I thought LINE is Japanese, because it's popular there. I haven't been in Korea.

I have seen WhatsApp popular in... hm, I think it was Thailand? I am not sure now.


...no it was India.

WhatsApp is a non-US thing. In Europe, it has de facto replaced SMS

Ditto in Asia. In Singapore, no one texts and hardly use fb messenger but whatsapp use is prevalent.

Same thing in neighbouring Malaysia. Everyone operates under the assumption that you are contactable via WhatsApp. Recently I even had doctor and car service appointments booked through WhatsApp.

Only in parts of Europe. In some cliques.

In Italy, Spain is used by just about everyone, not "some cliques", and the statment that has "replaced SMS" is a fair assessment.

Can't say about other countries.


The Netherlands too. It has a near monopoly on IM here.

My objection was to the generalization of Europe as a whole.

Based on some quick searches & napkin math, WhatsApp appears to be currently in use by a little over 5% of the U.S. population.

I remember using Adium with Growl on Mac for MSN, IRC and AIM all in one - good ol' days :-) I think in the online gaming industry XMPP is still quite adopted - sadly it's not easy/straightforward to find out what server and port and auth to use, because game companies don't want to have another "bot" problem to deal with. AFAIK Twitch.tv uses a slightly customized IRC for their sidebar chat while Blizzard (WoW, Overwatch, Diablo etc) XMPP.

Twitch uses IRC (which you can connect to with a regular IRC client, but you have to authenticate with a code somewhere from their website), which is nice as a occasional small streamer as it's the only way to see chat and the user list active in chat at the same time.

Check out Chatty: https://chatty.github.io

Adium was / is such a fantastic piece of software. Connect to every relevant chat service from one native app. Infinite ways of customization, plugins and themes to install and all accounts under one unified contact list.

The post made me feel sad—realizing what we had, and lost. Back when MSN (Was the de facto standard in Austria when the IM services got popular) a large chunk of my waking hours and nights were spend chatting with friends on Adium and later IRC.

I just started Adium that I keep migrating from computer to computer to keep my custom icon even though I don't use it (Nostalgia I guess) and the apart from nobody being online the only message that greeted me was the ICQ message that it was turned off.


Reuben Hersh has written about something to one side of this in mathematics: if you drive your specialisation narrow enough, you wind up in a room where perhaps only 2-3 people can talk to you cogently. Maybe this is part of things?

I overlapped with you on at least two people on that list, because of IETF but I maintain functional overlap with them on the margins. The rest have absolutely no contextual reason to know I exist and vice-versa.

(Of course there are several everyone knows exist, but it is a highly a-symmetrical relationship because a time when I would have need to speak to TBL and he have need to reply has long since passed, back in the 1990s and it never happened at the time)

So the author raises three points. One, is the death of open bus methods like XMPP. iMessage, Google Hangouts, use the underlying protocol but in a way which excludes exterior binding easily (Apple is a closed garden looking out)

WhatsApp uses signal, but anchors in a keypair nobody else can use. Signal is about as open as it gets. These protocols improve on XMPP because they implement things like key exchange and Forward security in ways I believe work. I have no doubt XMPP encompasses this, but the client implementations seem a bit fuzzy. Adium's 'deniable chat' thing never really took off did it?

Secondly, Adium is functionally orphanware. I use it, but it doesn't seem to get love and attention.

Lastly, there is an age effect. I had a circle of 40-50 people I held close, I now hold very few people close and I don't feel a grumpy curmudgeon, its just hard to maintain tenuous links. S/W can only mediate so much. (I'm 57 btw and I used BSD 'talk' and UNIX 'write' for years in the eighties and nineties on ARPAnet and JANET to do this, before chat protocols emerged from the BBS world)


Signal is a closed network, and doesn't permit people to build clients that run on their network.

You can fork Signal, but your fork won't be able to talk with any Signal users. https://lwn.net/Articles/687294/


It's funny this post is being created now. Google Hangouts was the primary method that my wife and I used to chat. I could talk to my wife while she was at work, even if I had no idea where my phone was. Its shutdown prompted me to look for an alternative. We ended up switching to an XMPP client, and we plan on creating an XMPP server for ourselves on a cloud instance so we know the conversation won't be intercepted by non-state actors.

I don't know if it will ever reach the popularity it once had, but XMPP is useful to us at least.


Somehow, Pidgin's GTalk integration still works. I have no idea how, considering GTalk was shuttered in 2014 and Google Chat within Gmail sometime in 2017/2018, but Pidgin still works.

For all of the despair that people are expressing I think quite a few people are going back to Gopher, XMPP and other open and efficient (e.g. not "blockchain") protocols.

I run a gopher site/hole. but like, the users for that would be a small percentage even on a site like HN. In the wild, I'm going to guess it hasn't cracked a point.

Not exactly a renascence.


Wasn't Gopher fairly un-open model (initially) one of the reasons HTTP/HTML became so much of a thing in the first place?

I still use hangouts on my phone and via https://hangouts.google.com/ everyday.... what am I missing?


I still don't understand what I'm supposed to use instead, as a consumer. Are Google users just not allowed to IM each other anymore? We have to switch to Google's Slack clone?

It's a big pity. Even though it's a walled garden, Google technologies have the advantage that at least most people have a Google account. To replace it, I have Whatsapp, Signal and Telegram running on my phone. I need all of those (and messages.android.com) running on my PC.

I guess Google couldn't figure out how to monetize it.


I wonder how this impact Fi, my understanding is Fi uses hangouts for all the VoIP/Wifi calling. I use Hangouts to handle all my text messages too...

They have been slowly moving thing off hangouts, and I imagine they will just shutdown the IM part of hangouts to start with.

I thought Fi and GSuite already didn't get along ?

you can use hangout for Fi text messaging, but it's not required.

Your link says, and it is also my understanding, that this only affects GSuite users, not the majority of Hangouts users. Is there any indication that most people will be affected ?

Yes. "Hangouts Classic" goes away for GSuite users Oct 2019, and they get migrated to "Hangouts Chat".

"Hangouts Classic" is going to be shut down at some unspecified date after that. All users will eventually be migrated to "Hangouts Chat" - GSuite users are just getting pushed first.


Hangouts, from what I can understand, is simply being split into Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. Not shutdown. Why split it up? Who knows? But, the current version still works, and Chat should probably meet most people's chat needs (assuming it's not completely gutted).

> We ended up switching to an XMPP client

Could you say what clients do you use?

> we plan on creating an XMPP server for ourselves

This surprisingly took less effort than I anticipated when I set up mine (from this [0] list) and I can see most of this modules were incorporated into "core". There is also ejabberd.

[0]: https://serverfault.com/questions/835635/what-prosody-module...


> Clients?

We use Xabber on our android phones, and I use Pidgin on my laptop. It works well enough, though Xabber is a bit annoying as it leaves a notification on the screen all of the time. Pidgin also doesn't come with OTR natively for some reason.

Thanks for the link! I'll definitely look over it again when I finally decide to set a server up.


Checkout conversations[0]. It isn't free, but is way better than Xabber imo. It also does e2e encryption unlike Xabber.

[0]: https://conversations.im/


It's free on F-Droid and there are a couple of free forks and rebuilds. It's also available for the Google Play family library (so it's one buy for moderate sized families).

However Daniel really took XMPP and ran with it: That XMPP is still feasible is in no small part thanks to him, so if you can spare the money that's a simple way to show appreciation.


> We ended up switching to an XMPP client, and we plan on creating an XMPP server for ourselves on a cloud instance so we know the conversation won't be intercepted by non-state actors.

Why create something from scratch when there are a couple of good and solid implementations Tigase XMPP Server (https://tigase.net) and OpenFire in Java, ejabberd in Erlang, Prosody in lua…


Google 'Hangouts' chat still exists inside Gmail

I'm still able to use it in Pidgin as well.

also the Hangouts Android app is still going

I think the Google Plus redesign was the beginning of the end. Changing Google Talk into Google Hangouts and trying to be more like Facebook began the process of killing what used to be a great platform.

Good piece on that here: https://www.tnhh.net/posts/google-talk.html


It's funny because the last aggregator I remember (~2011-2012) using was Meebo - whose founders were eventually hired by Google. If there was a service they didn't support I couldn't tell you what it was.

I also run a XMPP server for some friends. It works quite well. It's also nice to have my own domain to use.

It's amazing to me how many online friends I've lost contact with due people moving on from ICQ and AIM.

Back in the early 2000s, due to online gaming and hobby software development, Trillian would regularly have around 50 people online. These were not people I "collected", they were people I actively talked to for a variety of reasons: gaming, side projects, etc.

But then I got a job. Got a girlfriend. Got married. I got busy. I stopped logging in for about 4-5 years.

Around 2010 I was reminiscing a bit about the old times, and I reinstalled everything. There were only 3 people on AIM. Zero on ICQ. Oh well.


Most of my long-time friends are in a private Slack we are all logged onto 365 days a year. Of course, Tim's connections span a wider relationship gradient, and I just don't have any equivalent to it other than LinkedIn chat (which has its own share of problems, since not everyone I worked with actually uses it - or cares about it).

(I also used to work at a place which maintained its own XMPP client - we open-sourced it on GitHub, but apparently new management decided to retire the repo... here's a fork for posterity: https://github.com/yaye729125/sapo-messenger-for-mac)

However, he does raise an interesting point - the Internet is less social these days, either due to baloonning growth or lack of depth, and it diminishes us somewhat. I swapped some e-mails with Tim, and Aaron, and a few other greats (a couple on Tim's list, too), but those interactions were always fundamentally different from "open" chat.


Slack is so hard for me to follow. Some friends of mine use it and every time I open it there’s 50+ new messages and I just don’t know how to participate.

Just jump in, whenever. I have a private whatsapp chat with a set of friends from highschool/university and sometimes I come back to hundreds of unread messages. Just skip to the end. It's like a conversation at a party, you're not supposed to follow every single thread.

It's certainly better than seeing them every few months (kids, etc).


This reminds me of my time at the university. Everyone there was using IRC, and not just somehow using it, everyone had an instance of irssi running inside screen on the university's unix servers. When you were done chatting, you'd simply detach from the screen and irssi would keep on running on the background making sure you were always up to date.

The first thing that freshmen learnt was how to do just that. Windows users would install PuTTy and others, like me, would learn how to install and run Linux. Every community had its own channel, private or public, and life was good.

During my exchange year I was shocked to discover that this wasn't a standard practice in every university. The people at the other (non-technical) university were using a mixture of Skype and Facebook to communicate, but non of the feeling of being one big community was there.


I helped start a independent IRC network more than a decade ago, for a closed group of people/geeks.

It’s still going, but we’ve been able to observe other services draw some of those original people away. Or maybe family or real life did.

Either way, few of the original servers are still are around, same with the oppers.

The net is still there though, and so are many of our old users. Or should I say friends?

God knows how long I’ve known them now.

It's all pseudonyms or handles like the internet originally was, but it certainly feels more real than Facebook despite their "real name" policy and all that nonsense.


IMO this is one of the key value propositions of Facebook. Almost everyone has it, it doesn't change or get lost when you lose your phone (like a phone number can), and it's likely to be around for a long time. It's excellent for remaining in touch with the long tail of friends that you might otherwise lose contact with.


Deleting Facebook app =/= going off Facebook.

I'm an active Facebook user, but no app, thank you. Mobile site will do. The app brings little additional value to me, and the easiest way to do away with the pesky notifications is removing the app.


Sure, but it's a step down the path.

I don't do FB app and I don't do messenger. Only mobile, and only to find groups for one specific game I play. As soon as that moves on, I will delete.


While this is very much true now, it's worth remembering that this isn't some kind of Facebook secret sauce. You found all your friends on Facebook. You could find them again, yes even the long-lost ones, on whatever the hip new thing is.

That was true a few years ago, but definitely not anymore.

Especially the teens are gone, but increasingly so is the 20-40 segment.


Right, people hate it for a hundred other reasons. But I have a Facebook name that I can give to a stranger on the street and then negotiate which chat to use. That everyone has it and you see their rough location and such, is where it has some value even for a FOSS and self-host nut as I.

I'm still an FB "monthly active user", in that I use it about once a month. As people have dropped off in my circles, one-per-month has become more than enough to catch up.

I'm in the same boat. Hardly using the site really shows how poor it has become. I'll pop in once a month to 50+ 'notifications,' only to find 48 of them will be "Josh posted a photo" or "Jake liked a post" despite that setting to turn off friend activity notifications turned off. I don't even bother with scrolling through the feed. Why should I? It is in no particular sort, I frequently scroll over the same five posts, and somehow every third post is an advertisement now. It would take hours now to 'catch up' just from all the pollution you have to sift through to see actual original content posted by your friends directly.

I used to be able to run through the news feed in like 5-10 minutes back when it was chronological and sponsored content was not passed around the site like a venereal disease. Why even bother now?


From my experience, lots of people have a Facebook handle, but don't use the "news feed". Just Messenger and sometimes groups/events.

ICQ/AIM died when Microsoft made Window come with their own default IM. Then people somehow moved over to Skype, then Microsoft bought skype, but screwed up, so people moved elsewhere. And Facebook happened. And smartphones happened. I think you can still reach most people via Facebook. IRC is also going strong! Gaming communities use VoIp services so they can talk in real time while playing games, there are a bunch of services targeting gamers exclusively. Old people still use mailing lists. Young people no longer use e-mail. XMPP is too damn complicated. We need something more simple, that use mostly direct connections (P2P) so public servers only are needed for discovery and NAT punching. The ID could be a public key hash, you just give the public key hash an alias on the client. Then the public key could also be used to encrypt messages. If you lose your private key you just make a new one, and tell your friends to add your new one. Other services can then use the universal ID and peer discovery services to build functionality like sending files, sharing photo albums only accessible by a set of public keys that has to decrypt a challenge to gain access, etc.

That's true ... I remember now how I didn't want a hotmail account at first but gradually other chat systems became silent so I migrated.

I wonder if part of what caused this was poor mobile support for the existing standards. It makes sense that the companies would be incentivized to make chat applications that were not interoperable, but I think the really bad state of existing standards allowed this door to be more open than it would have been otherwise.

My guess is that it's a few things:

1. Long form convo on mobile sucks, so instead we send memes but chat just wasn't ready for that.

2. iMessage defaulting to non SMS but proprietary, now sms has the features we want in mobile conversations like quick picture sharing, likes, memes, consistent emojis.

3. At the advent of iMessage, google had talk and could easily have transparently merged sms and xmpp in a shiny competitor that was cross platform, and worked everywhere. They failed to see any value in this, and instead have released a revolving door of halfass chat apps, half the time more than one at once, with a subset of the features of any normal chat app.

4. From there, everyone just made a platform specific chat app, because cross platform ease of use was of no value as there was no competition in that space.


A lot of people didn’t understand it then.

Text messaging, in the pre-iPhone era, is what killed IM... and then it “came back” so to speak as a contentious feature of mobile phones (iMessage, Hangouts).

Text messaging won because everyone had a phone number and smart-phones/data services were seen by the masses as unnecessary or a luxury. When most people send a “text” they’re sending an IM be it over WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal, Hangouts (or whatever google’s is these days), Slack, etc so it really does suck we’ve gone full circle ended up where we started.

From the sounds of it, looks like it’s time for some work on making XMPP sexy.


That's true and certainly the "global protocol" for lack of a better term on iOS is iMessage. Either using a phone # or email it doesn't matter, and they managed to get 95% of the people all talking to each other.

<Insert speculation about the total # of iMessage users being more than possibly either Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn>

That said, although people might be wary of the dominant messaging platform coming from the OS vendor, I don't see how Google can really connect everyone unless they are the ones who do it.

If only their messaging strategy was consistent - and not half assed, they might get somewhere.


iMessage is only popular because it functions exactly the same as SMS on an iphone aside from the color of your chat bubble, and the software defaults to it over SMS. If Apple separated iMessage and SMS into two apps, it would have failed.

What's crazy, is google is still trying to figure out how to get sms/chat/video call into a single app like 7 years later. How can this be so hard to see as adding massive value? my iFriends have had iMessage for half a decade, and I've seen so many chat apps from google I've given up and gone with something else in the mean time.

The saddest part of this to me is that Google had a huge head start with Google Voice which they let languish for years. When I realized I was being silently dropped from group messages because they were MMS and voice couldn't support it (which lead to people thinking I was ignoring them) I moved everything to Apple.

Since then they've released and killed a bunch of chat applications that have all been pretty poor - as an outsider it seems like something is pretty wrong with how they're handling that strategy.


And what's crazy, is it's so obvious, and so easy that every other chat app out there has basically converged on exactly the same fucking thing.

Not sure what you're implying, but that was frankly the only solution if you wanted to create something that could be used by the majority of people with iOS devices.

Proprietary "sugar" on top of standard protocols is almost the de facto answer for how Apple operates these days. Their efforts to get the extra stuff past standards bodies (so that everyone can use it) is at times hit or miss, but I'm increasingly convinced the overall approach is correct.

Why Google can't do this on Android is an open question.


Before iMessage and Hangouts there was Meego which was an attempt to bring back the chat applications on smart phones with an XMPP client, but the protocols weren't good enough (and the app wasn't very good either).

Without mobile first considerations you'd lose history or miss messages on the phone making it pretty unreliable. When anything else came along that was better it was used instead. Any network advantage XMPP had quickly died as people moved on to things that actually worked (most of which were walled gardens).


It's the input method that did it for me. Typing out text on a smartphone isn't pleasurable for me.

What I noticed is once people started using mobile devices the richness of their messages/posts/comments declined radically.

> There was a time when commercial chat services supported XMPP because it was felt to be the right thing to do.

There was also a time when services supported RSS for similar reasons.

Sadly the web became dominated by a few big players who want to make everything their own walled gardens to keep competition out.


The only reason my Adium still has anyone at all is because a lot of people sign into Google Talk automatically when they open Gmail and don't realize it. Otherwise my list would be mostly barren.

I thought Google had retired GTalk sometime in their move to Google+, Hangouts, etc.? Is it still working via XMPP?

> once you get past Global Warming and deranged chiefs of state, the atomization of the social fabric is high, high on the list. I haven’t fought hard enough to stay connected (not alone in that). And time grows short.

Predicted in 'Atomised', by Michel Houellebecq


The increasing atomization of society has been discussed since at least The Lonely Crowd (1950).

It's a generational thing; growing old and inflexible means that the enthusiasm that caused you to adopt tools 10-20 years ago is gone and you no longer jump onto new platforms and tools like you used to.

The number of programmers doubles every 5 years. So, people (mostly techies, lets be honest) using stuff like xmpp ten years ago are outnumbered by millenials dominating the scene today that never used that. They use other stuff and are chatting more than ever. Stubbornly hanging on to IRC, Adium, or other ancient shit simply means you are not part of the conversation anymore.

I uninstalled Adium half a decade ago.


> The number of programmers doubles every 5 years.

Source? This might have been true few years ago but there seems to be an opposite trend.


http://blog.cleancoder.com/uncle-bob/2014/06/20/MyLawn.html

Uncle bob. This is five years ago, so if you have numbers that prove the opposite, now would be a good time to point that out.


To me it feels like many of the relationships/groups you have and people you meet in life is temporary, and the amount of effort you make to keep in touch can sometimes never be enough to keep in touch with people that just naturally drift away.

I think with IM the issue is that you don't necessarily "cross paths" with people you know unless intentional. It requires some openness, sincerity and a bit of humility to make that contact, which I feel is more stigmatized, even though that kind of approach would mean people would want to talk to each other.

It's the type of thing you don't get with modern internet walled gardens and I've put more appreciation and effort to the face-to-face interactions than the ones I do with a screen. But I do miss having interactions with people that had all the same interests as myself, perhaps that's the real difference, restrictions of the real world mean people with the same interests and world view are limited in number and availability by virtue of proximity. Comparing these experiences can warp your view of the world and make you question what you actually value.


I find it weird that email started as an open protocol; various companies tried to make their own private communities but those eventually dwindled and transferred to SMTP.

Why did realtime chat fail to take the same path? I assumed it would.


Technically, it did: Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has been an RFC for over a quarter of a century. To me, at least, it's an interesting question why IRC never really broke out of "only nerds need apply" status.

Because:

* No clients support multimedia - animated GIFs, videos, audio, images, video/audio calls - only Quassel has web previews and that's about it

* E2E encryption doesn't exist properly

* Signing up to protect usernames is a pain in the ass, especially if people span networks and assuming networks even have something like NickServ

* Users are require to have a bouncer to have some chat persistence

* No clients offer convenience features such as search

* It's a pain in the ass to manage channels to just chat

* Clients can't handle mobile connections well

I'm sure I've forgotten other problems the protocol has.


I'm not sure any of those are issues that couldn't have been addressed by now through a new version of the protocol, though; what I'm trying to get it is that it's sort of weird to me that IRC in 2019 isn't materially different than IRC in 1994. IRCv3 addresses a whole lot of those problems, for instance, and there's nothing that technically could have prevented it from addressing them 10 years ago.

IRCv3 brings a bunch of really nice features I'm so happy to have, but it's really the clients that need a lot of work in addition to just IRCv3 features. Image, video and audio inlining is still something that no client does and the standard can't help with and that's a huge con for most users.

What the standard could help with is standardizing markdown formatting, some method of E2E encryption, better SASL (with registration, key rollover/update and distribution between your clients).


> * No clients support multimedia - animated GIFs, videos, audio, images, video/audio calls - only Quassel has web previews and that's about it

Textual supports a bunch of inline media: https://help.codeux.com/textual/release-notes/Release-Notes%...


Unfortunately Textual is MacOS only?

Yes, that is the case, and is unfortunate for the IRC ecosystem, but it's not the case that "no clients support multimedia".

Given OSX's marketshare it's only a rounding error away from being "no clients support multimedia" unfortunately.

IRC is about as featureful as the telegraph, I'm pretty sure that's why so few people bother with it and while interfaces (bots that relay messages to other platforms and back) exist plenty, pretty much everyone would rather use something with at least scrollback without bouncer. Probably also file transfer, (video) calling, screen sharing, typing notifications, read receipts, etc.

There are clients that does file transfer etc, for example Mirc. IRC can be extended with just about anything, using a direct connection (P2P), although you might need to use the same client.

Direct Client Connections (DCC) became infeasible about 20 years ago with the proliferation of NAT routers. The workarounds (connection tracking and rewriting) never arrived for the masses.

I think IPv6 was designed to not need NAT, so once we get IPv6 we will see cool new protocols again. Only problem is we developers make software insecure by listening on all IP's instead of just private. And without a password! Having your security camera or what not accessible from the Internet should really be opt-in. It's our own fault that everything is NAT:ed, and that the only open ports in the firewall are 80,443. We need more peer pressure between developers in order to make things secure by default, and not allow insecure by convenience.

Default IPv4 (for consumers) is a single IP with masq/NAT. Then with user authorization add port forwarding as needed.

Default IPv6 (for consumers) is block all incoming (except for traffic related to outgoing). Then with user authorization add allow rules as needed.

So basically no difference between IPv4 vs IPv6.

If you default firewall on IPv6 is allow all... buy a better router/firewall.


We would not need a router or firewall. Probably not a wifi either. All stationary devices will be wired in. And mobiles would use 6G or 7G. Where I live (sweden) you can already get 10Gbe. Now imagine the possibilities. For example VR with less then a ms latency to closest datacenter. Where your device is just a thin client. Microsoft are already planning to build a DC near major cities, hopefully they are up to something cool.

I've often wondered about this too. IRC was amazing and then it stagnated. Perhaps not ambitious enough governance / leadership over the project? Lack of (financial) incentives?

I don't really know the structure/contributors of the project except for the beginning (not when it stagnated later on), but perhaps if Jarkko Oikarinen had been as driven as Linus Torvalds, we would live in a different reality when it comes to instant messaging


If you think about it, nothing really like IRC exists nowadays. Slack is similar, but it's more of a work tool, and it has a much smaller userbase than any of the other mass communication tools (~10M).

I'd say there's simply no great demand for real-time chatting with large groups of people.


I think this is a good explanation. https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/

I would have to guess because open protocols lead to implementations which trade speed for interoperability, which is OK for e-mail, but not for realtime applications.

I don’t think it was a technical issue. On the mail side it was a social issue — first gatewaying to the internet, then a desire to use a variety of clients.

FWIW, XMPP appears to have reasonable performance.


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