I love instant messaging for it’s speed, low costs and ease of keeping in touch with others. But here’s my wishlist:
- Facebook Friend List: The main reason I use MSN Messenger because all of my friends live on it. Not because MSN is a superior network; in fact it can often be frustrating when the MSN network goes down across the world. It really doesn’t matter how technically superior your protocol or client may be – it’s whether you can actually get the job done: to chat with the people you want to. Saying that, my friends list does not live on MSN – in fact my MSN contact list is a small subset. Instead, it lives on Facebook. For me, the perfect IM client would allow me to everybody on my friends list – not just those on the MSN list. So support for the Facebook Friends list.
- Distributed Network: Nothing is more frustrating than MSN Messenger downtime. It’s true that in many ways it’s positive: I wouldn’t be surprised if GDP and grades would double overnight if MSN Messenger went down. But there are the times you really need it and it’s just not working. Jabber/XMPP has a distributed network but it falls short on the lack of a decent client and users.
- Integration with Social Web: I often get invites to events via Facebook these days and many of my friends also maintain blogs or “Twitters”. It would be great for these to be integrated into IM: after all IM is a social utility.
- Selectively Online: Until recently, it has been impossible to talk to people on MSN Messenger without first coming online. That means when you just want a bit of help with your maths homework on matrix transformation, you open yourself up to conversations with the people you met at summer camp five years ago or a distant cousin, who as much as you’d love to chat to, the assignment is due in in a couple of hours. It’s why college students both love and hate IM as it is built for procrastination. These days, you can “appear offline” in order to achieve the same effect, but wouldn’t it be great if there was some way of appearing online to just your maths class?
- Smarter Statuses: You might be reading about the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands or the history of the Circle Line on the London Underground. Or perhaps you’re filling in a tax return online and setting up direct debits on your bank website. In the first case, you probably don’t mind being distracted, but in the second case it could be a costly distraction. It would be fantastic if a smarter IM programme could try and work out whether you want to be distracted. If I’m working on a 10,000-word essay due in tomorrow morning, the IM programme could be more subtle: silencing alerts and displaying messages as a system tray icon rather than a flashing taskbar item perhaps.