The sheer number of methods we can use to communicate person-to-person has grown substantially. Outside of a controlled corporate environment with internal chat services, there are seemingly endless ways we can conduct text-based conversations. Usually, more options are a good thing, but that's not true in this case.
Exactly how many apps must I have installed and potentially open on my desktop, phone, and tablet in order to communicate with people? Way too many. I think this was a problem that Apple was attempting to tackle with iMessage and the Messages app, but that only accounts for Google, Yahoo, and AOL chat services, along with the general Jabber protocol. While Messages will let you add Facebook chat and other Jabber-based services, most people don't know that, and they will never do it because it requires manual configuration of the client, including specific server and port information. Other services simply cannot be consolidated through Messages.
Further, this sort of consolidation leads to a situation where you might have the same person linked three or four different ways through the same IM client. If a friend has an AIM, Facebook, and GTalk account, it's only a matter of time until they appear three times in your buddy list. When this happens in Messages, you have to click on each entry to determine the source of that buddy, which is displayed in the text entry field on the right. It's madness.
The whole thing reminds me of the wall of pull bells in the servants' hall in "Downton Abbey."
The worst part: There's really no solving this one, aside from a truly consolidated client with provisions for managing the vagaries of each service or a central service that handles all communication of this type -- and we know the last one is a nonstarter. A consolidated client would also require the cooperation of each service vendor to some degree. As people flock to new messaging apps and services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, it necessarily forces those who were otherwise content with AIM or GTalk to download yet another application, create an account, and descend further into the madness.
If you want to chat with me, send a few smoke signals. At least there are only a few protocols to deal with there.
This story, "Can we talk? The sorry state of modern messaging," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.