I had promised a follow up post to my initial impressions on Beeper, the new all-in-one IM client for desktop and mobile, but I realized this afternoon that I had yet to provide it, thereby depriving a whole two people of my completely uninformed opinions on this revolutionary piece of software. In truth, I had forgotten about it.
The idea behind Beeper is that you can use it as a front end for all of your individual messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Discord, Instagram, and others. I believe that Beeper HQ is using its ability to hook into the iMessage platform to “sell” the product, thereby putting to rest the completely irrelevant and completely contrived “Blue Bubble versus Green Bubble” controversy. I don’t know how much of a “selling point” this is to non-iOS users, and for iOS users it’s not that great a replacement the actual Message app on iOS.
As it stands right now, Beeper’s functionality is rudimentary and probably sufficient for the more focused protocols like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Messenger whose primary motivator is to send text and images back and forth. If you’re any more of a power user than the average 75-year-old, however, each implementation seems to be lacking the ability to do much more than that. I found using iMessage — on an iPhone — to be hit or miss. It would occasionally send images. There was no way to start a new group chat (whether that’s because all of my group-ees were on Android or not, I don’t know). It crashes a lot. With Discord, it only works for DMs which is probably the least useful feature of Discord. I haven’t really tried other services because I mainly communicate through text and Discord, which I guess means that Beeper isn’t really aimed at me. But then again, if people are using more IM services in their daily lives than I am, maybe they need an intervention.
I do think that Beeper’s best, yet least touted, feature is the fact that it’s built on top of the Matrix protocol. Not many people know about Matrix, I believe, and even among those who do, I don’t know how many people use it or would even care to use it, especially since Beeper’s marketing is based on the idea of unifying all of the other, more heavily used IM services out there. Matrix is a lot like Discord in that rooms can be created and controlled, and people can join, leave, and be managed, but it’s also encrypted, and since Matrix is an open protocol, once you create a Matrix room via one interface you can access it through any other Matrix-supporting interface. Beeper comes with a personal Matrix room called “Note to self” which allows you to type out a note on your mobile edition of Beeper and have it accessible via your desktop edition of Beeper, which is what I had been using Element to do before I was reminded that I had signed up for Beeper. I then successfully used Beeper to access my Element-created rooms (and then deleted them because I was the only one using them), which is kind of the inverse of what Beeper is looking to accomplish: rather than putting a unifying UI on a wide set of different IM platforms, it allows for a single IM platform, Matrix, to be accessed from whatever app you want, be it Beeper, Element, or some other app which looks nothing like either of them.
Joking aside, I know that people with wider social networks than mine probably do use a wide array of services to keep in touch with friends and family members, and I think that we’ve just gotten used to the idea of keeping access to several different platforms be they installed, integrated, or web-based. Beeper does trend towards allowing us to forget about having to run from listen-post to listening-post to keep up with our own personal Joneses, but right now it’s still at a point where none of the integrations will work as well as or feel as natural as the native implementations, which is understandable. It certainly bears watching, though, and signing up for an invite if for no other reason than to get a leg up on the Matrix protocol and what it can do for your online social life (results not guaranteed).