Yes, you are reading that title correctly. The founder of Pebble (remember those pre-Apple Watch smart wearables?) has come out to the public with his new project and it is an enticing premise for sure. We’ve seen attempts at something like this in the past and it has never quite worked out, but no previous attempt has promised the inclusion of iMessage, either, so there’s that. Still, I’m curiously skeptical that this will all pan out, yet a bit hopeful as well.
The premise is a simple idea: all your main chat apps and inboxes in one, singular place. No more struggling to keep up with what conversation happens where. No more keeping up with multiple services and apps to stay on top of your communications. Instead, Beeper becomes the bridge to unite all your disparate chat apps into one, unified inbox where you can presumably communicate with nearly everyone from one dashboard.
Current supported services
- Facebook Messenger
- Android Messages (SMS)
- Beeper network
Again, we’ve seen attempts at this in the past and things didn’t pan out so well, so we’ll just have to wait and see how this attempt goes. Because we’re talking about merging so many different communication protocols, there will inherently be limits with this. For instance, even though I will likely be able to chat one-on-one with anyone on any of these services, I’m still not going to be able to create groups inside Beeper with any amount of ease, so technical hangups like that will have to be considered.
Even wilder is the way they are bridging the gap with iMessage. While a bridge app has been effectively used for this before with apps like AirMessage, no company has ever made this step available to non-Apple users the way Beeper intends to. If you have no access to a Mac, iPhone or iPad, Beeper will send you an old, jailbroken iPhone to act as your bridge. I’m not kidding.
Granted, if Beeper takes off, it’ll take far more than 50 iPhones to supply the likely demand. Still, it is an aggressive approach that could provide a very useful service to a whole lot of people that are simply worn down by the ever-widening communication gap presented by a growing number of chat apps and services.
Not just an app, but a new protocol
This whole effort is far bigger than just an app and a singular, connecting service. You see, Beeper is built on the Matrix messaging protocol and if the makers of Beeper have any say in the matter, eventually all the bridging acrobatics and connection kung fu that the app provides will lead to everyone simply using a Matrix-driven messenger down the road. Think of Matrix as email and something like Beeper as Gmail. Matrix is the protocol, Beeper is one of what could be many clients. If Matrix becomes successful via services like Beeper using it to connect previously unconnected users, over time a large portion of messages could be sent via this universal service.
These bridges are actually just an intermediate step. Since Matrix itself is an amazing chat network, eventually as more people start using bridges on Matrix, they’ll notice that their friends are already on Matrix, eliminating the need for bridges gradually over time.
I really believe that the world will be a better place when everyone is in the Matrix. Matrix is the non-proliferation treaty of chat. I think Matrix could form the basis for a true universal communications bus.via Medium: The Universal Communication Bus
Those are lofty hopes for chat apps that, at this point in our collective history, are a bit of a mess. Getting everyone on the same page has felt like an impossible achievement, and I don’t know if Beeper is the answer to that. The Matrix protocol could eventually be, but that would require some big shifts in the industry. Nothing is impossible, and I remain hopeful. Until that reality, I’ve signed up for Beeper (it costs $10/month for those interested) and we’ll do a deeper dive once it launches and I can try it out on both my Android phone and Chromebook.