My blogging counterpart, Jeff Casavant, recently wrote a mini-series on the chat app Matrix. My TLDR understanding of Matrix is that it bridges multiple chat services into one app, creating separate rooms for each and replicating their structure (i.e. Topic-based channels for Slack, one-on-one instances for Facebook Messenger and so on).
I like this idea in theory, but I find it clunky in practice.
Matrix is an impressive band-aid on the gaping wound that is text chat. Ever since WhatsApp and similar clients started gaining considerable attention we’ve seen a bevy of new chat apps.
It seems like every eighteen months I’m asked to join up with another one for some project or another. I have SMS/iMessage, Facebook Messenger for conversations with friends, Skype for Business at work (which basically no one uses), Slack for my podcasting team, Discord for my D&D group. Oh, and Snapchat, for whatever Snapchat is now.1
If I’m being honest, the chat app I enjoy the most is iMessage. And that’s because, at the end of the day, I know most people will check their texts. You can have hundreds of apps with chat features on your phone, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t pay attention to them.
There’s a part of me that likes the separation. I like being able to mute notifications for an app when I’m not engaging with that group or project. I also like being able to separate personal conversations with collaborators from work on our projects. I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps right now.
As the chat space gets more and more fragmented I feel like I lose track of more people. I’ve run out of space in my brain to remember everyone’s favorite apps. Jeff prefers Matrix, Tyler only checks Messenger and my DM needs my latest character sheet uploaded to Discord.
I applaud the innovation in each of these apps and I’m glad to see Matrix trying to make sense of it all. I’m just ready for things to settle down a little bit. For now, I’m going to try to keep my inventory instant messengers down to two rows of my home screen.
1 This list doesn’t include any dating apps, because I’m honestly not sure if these classify as chat apps.