Back before 2007 there was a package called Gaim, a GTK AOL Chat Gui.. this took off because there wasn’t a reliable AOL chat interface because it took off AOL did what big companies do and sued.. the outcome of this was a name change to Pidgin and the start of something beautiful.
Back in those early years of 2007, we had a similar problem to one we have today, a wide selection of chat platforms, and thus a wide selection of chat apps. Realistically we wanted a single platform to communicate with everyone on and Pidgin for a short time became this.
Well, I say a short time, it’s still around today https://www.pidgin.im/ and has a lot of plugins for a lot of IM applications such as WhatsApp, Slack, Teams, and Telegram, Which is something I’d not realise until about 5 minutes ago.
My assumption had been that as services like Skype, Facebook chat and the like started locking their APIs away from the masses so they could collect all that advertising goodness and sell it on, it had stopped Pidgin from being as useful as it once had been.
So why the history lesson?
Over the years there have been Apps that have tried to do the same as Pidgin, Trillian springs to mind here there are however many more. Because of limitations on the vendor services, it’s been hard. That was until a few years back and the introduction of something called Matrix.
matrix.org. From a technical perspective, it is an application layer communication protocol for federated real-time communication. It provides HTTP APIs and open source reference implementations for securely distributing and persisting messages in JSON format over an open federation of servers.
This then launched a set of frameworks including services like element.io which provided bridges to popular chat apps like WhatsApp, Slack, RocketChat, Mattermost, Teams etc
As with most new technologies, the want of a universal chat app (like pidgin) and the ability to get there using riot.im or element.io or self-hosted servers was a bit of a technical minefield and not something you could achieve out of the box as a clean experience. API keys, URLs, and Secrets it’s all there to confuse.
And this is where some ex-employees of the smart fitness watch pebble have made a choice to step up and turn the experience from a techie one which works with spit and gaffer tape into a consumer-ready experience.
This brings me to Beeper.
Straight off the bat if you’re looking to go online and download Beeper today, forget about it. Beeper is currently in the test and trial stage and is slowly adding users who have been patiently waiting for over a year onto its platform.
It’s early days, and even I’ve found a bug or two… That being said, and as someone who has set up RIOT.IM to do something similar and have been using element.io for the past 4 months to have my chats centralised, and as someone who runs an active self-hosted Mattermost Server, I must say, the experience so far is really good.
Potentially however the killer app here for many on Android will be iMessage
With Beeper on Windows and Android, you can finally send and receive iMessages with blue bubbles and get the full iMessage experience.
High resolution photos and videos, tapbacks, replies and full group chats – with zero green bubbles.
This seems to be a thing the world needs, I don’t use an iPhone so personally don’t understand the fuss or why Apple won’t adopt more modern technology (other than the obvious locking argument) However it will keep a group of people happy so that’s good.
Supported at the time of writing are the following services in the beeper app.
- Android SMS
- Google Chat
- IRC (Libera.chat)
Personally, I’d like to see Mattermost and Rocket.chat on this list, however, I fully appreciate these are not huge commercial wins for the team.
Once all the chat apps you use are plumbed into Beeper it does a good job of security end to end your chats
All Beeper to Beeper chat messages are fully end-to-end encrypted. Messages sent using Beeper to other chat networks are re-encrypted if the other network supports encryption (like Signal, WhatsApp and iMessage).
Then there is the subject of selling your information
Privacy is a fundamental human right. We will uphold the privacy and security of the data you send and receive on Beeper. We will never profit by selling your data. Read our privacy statement for more details.
So what do we have here?
A universal chat app which supports most of the major chat applications out there, I’m assuming as the underlying framework supports it as/if the application gains more support, more chat apps will be added.
It’s not usable right now unless you get an invite, and will be $10 a month when launched.
For the last week on Ubuntu 22.04 and Android 12 its been working really well for me, I’ve not missed any messages, I love the desktop App (which runs on the Linux Shell on my Chromebook as well)
I think this is a project which probably took more to get to where it is today than most will ever realise, in the same breath however as someone who has over the last two years been using alternatives, Beeper is a slick, near-consumer ready app.
Would I recommend this to my Mum, my usual test?
In 3 to 6 months, 100% yes.. Today, its just needs a few bugs squashed..