A friend recently forwarded me an email I sent to him in 2004. It was part of conversation about where messaging was going, e.g. texting vs. email vs. voice, etc. Specifically we were discussing how South Koreans thought email was for old people, and that they were using SMS as their primary method of communication:
Here’s what I wrote:
Soon, it’ll just be information, and where you are when you get it won’t matter all that much. The only difference between getting it at home and getting it while SCUBA diving will be the frills on the interface.
So this raises the question: what are the real differences in messaging? Why are there even still distinctions between types of messages? Why is email called email, when most people just use it for text? WhLet’s start with a list of differentiators:
- Media Support: text, rich formatting, images, voice, video, *hologram
- Endpoint Addressing: email address, phone number, *PersonalID
- Client Capabilities: mobile phone keyboards, full home keyboards, microphones, mobile phone displays, home displays
…and now the implementations:
- Text Messaging
In other words, why can’t email do voicemail? Why can’t “text” messages handle rich text? Why can’t you send text in a voicemail? Etc. What are the fundamental lines that cannot be blurred?
And if any such lines exist, why do they? Are they not just limitations of implementation, and not of any inherent distinctions?
It’s All About the Human
So the answer is that there were really three reasons for these distinctions being created between email, IM, texting, and voice.
- It’s just how the technology evolved. We had email before mobile phones, so it came before SMS, etc. Same with voicemail; it came naturally given the fact that we already had a teleophone system.
- Related to that is the issue of technology permeation. You can only use mediums that other people are using as well, so it depends on the infrastructure being there.
- Capabilities are constrained by the limitations of human-to-device interface. So we haven’t been doing full video on mobile phones until recently because the devices couldn’t handle it, but now they increasingly can. Not to mention the networks the content has to traverse.
The point of highlighting all these distinctions is to show that they are going away, and what will remain is a system where all devices will have the ability to create and display all of the various types of media.
At that point it’ll just be messaging. Not email. Not text. Not video. Not voice. Just a message that happens to be in one of these formats.
All systems, including your personal device (it won’t be called a phone for much longer) will be able to create messages in all of these formats, as well as view them as well. And of course your main systems at home will have the same capabilities, albeit with better processing, input, and output capabilities.
The main difference right now between texting and email is not the character limit or the media that’s supported; it’s the destination. Email requires an email address, whereas texting requires a phone number. And each of these have different privacy models. That’s where services like Google Voice come in.
The future is much simpler when it comes to messaging: you’ll have an identifier and people will send messages to it. From there you’ll have a set of rules to govern which types of messages, and from whom, get sent to you at which times and on which devices.
So it’ll be something like:
- If the message is from anyone at work, and it’s the weekend, send any voice messages to my main queue, but if it’s text (that’s alphabet text, not SMS) then send it to my personal device (including the transcriptions of the voice messages).
- If the message is from an unknown caller, transcribe all formats and place them in my queue after 6pm, otherwise send them to my personal device for screening.
- If the message is from my wife, always send all formats to my personal device, at any time.
- If the messages is from one of my friends, send text transcriptions to me, but all other formats to my queue for review.
The only distinction at that point will be human interface issues, i.e. type vs. speak vs. listen vs. watch, and the constraints of doing each of those during your day to day life. ::