Communication in real time between users whose devices are connected to a network, the Internet in general, receives different names, but chat (from English chat) is the most used to refer to instant messaging services and programs, without other proposals such as cyberchar have been successful.
When it started, we used different names to distinguish systems where text messages are instantly published from others in which the communication was only voice (vozIP), or voice and image in real time (videoconference). Now that the media has converged and we have devices and applications that allow the integration of all these types of digital chat, it is more difficult to find a term; In this article several will be used but we will always be talking about real-time communication media through digital devices.
The main commercial communication applications allow exchanging text, voice and video in real time, as well as the possibility of attaching files beyond images, be they documents or voice recordings.
The first real-time messaging systems that reached the general public were those built to work on PC or Mac systems, such as Windows Live Messenger (or MSN Messenger) between 1999 and 2012 or Yahoo Messenger. These systems experienced moments of glory, but it was the popularization of mobile devices and the high price of text message services (SMS) from communication companies that would allow the recent emergence of new real-time messaging applications that Old dinosaurs from the first cyber-chats and SMS services have been pushed ahead.
In 2015 in Spain, the 3 most downloaded applications were real-time communication applications or a social network with extensive functionality to be used as a communication application.
- WhatsApp (1st in both Android and iOS)
- Facebook (2nd on Android and 3rd on iOS)
- Facebook Messenger (3rd on Android and 2nd on IOS)
Communication applications for mobile devices
In a review of possible communication applications for mobile devices, there is no choice but to start with the current leader in Spain: WhatsApp.
Available for both Android and iOS and with a practical web extension that allows us to free ourselves from mobile devices if we are working on the PC.
WhatsApp activated its calling service through the application in April 2015, so the calls thus made have a free cost, although they do involve data consumption if a Wifi is not used. It is expected to offer video conferencing functionality shortly.
Other options can be Telegram, an application very concerned about data security by encrypting messages .
Telegram has made the security flaws detected in other applications, especially WhatsApp, one of its lines of work striving to achieve a very secure application, but usable by all, and they have succeeded.
In the app stores we will find it available for Android and iOS .
Simple video conferencing
I already fix myself with WhatsApp, should I change? It will not be necessary but until the videoconferencing functionality is incorporated into this application, the thousands of parents with children in the Erasmus program will have no other solution than to use another program. There are applications that can complement our communication applications by adding functionalities. The video conference is very simple with Skype with an application for Android and iOS and with a magnificent desktop application for Windows, Mac or Linux systems . If we have a SmartTV television with a camera, the Skype for TV application It can be a way to incorporate our friends into our family room through videoconferencing.
This application is also part of the different Microsoft solutions in the Office 365 office suite, and adds 60 minutes per month to call landlines and mobiles in certain countries to the free application. If you need to speak to a country frequently, among those included in the list, this functionality amply amortizes the price of the annual subscription to Office 365 (€ 69 per year, price announced in January 2016); To give an example, these 60 minutes per month for a year with Germany would cost us right now over € 360 per year without considering taxes with a telephone provider without discounts per plan.
Another video conferencing solution is the one that Google offers through its Hangouts application , available for desktop systems through the Web or through its applications for Android portable devices or iOS systems .
This application allows us individual or group talks (up to 100 people) where we can use text, photos, maps, emoticons, stickers or GIF files; make voice calls and video calls with the possibility of groups of up to 10 people; synchronize all devices so that a chat started on the mobile will be available on the Web or any other portable device.
In this section we cannot forget the Facebook video call functions , which work with the main browsers such as Chrome or Firefox and Opera, but not with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE).
Video calls from this social network allow you to make calls directly from Facebook. If the equipment has a camera and a microphone, which is already common in most desktop computers, both towers and laptops, audio and video calls can be made in real time.
Social networks are also Chat
The ultimate raison d’être of any social network is to offer communication services among its users, so the border between pure WhatsApp or Skype communication service and strict social network like Facebook is tenuous and dynamic.
Also publication services like Tumblr or Flickr have been “socializing” and have enough functionalities to use them in “chat” mode. Twitter itself (7.9 million users in Spain in 2015) is still a system for publishing conversations, mere “chats”.
According to Professor Frederic Guerrero-Sole in statements to the newspaper EI Pais “ WhatsApp’s success may come from the fact that it is a convergence between SMS and social networks. On the one hand, it respects privacy; on the other, it allows group messaging, emulating a social network but without the content being public, and without the user having the impression that its content is being tracked for advertising purposes as Facebook or Google does . ”
Perhaps to avoid this impression of lack of privacy, some networks have clearly established the difference between the flow of content, texts, images, links, shares and instant chat-like conversation, dedicating a separate application to it. This is the case of Facebook Messenger for Facebook (22 million users in Spain in 2015) or the same Hangouts of Google regarding the social network Google+.
We asked ourselves in the title if there is life beyond WhatsApp and, after reviewing some of the personal communication applications that mobile devices allow us, the answer is yes. There is life and much, life in the form of alternative applications and in the form of social networks. However in that life we have begun to use forms of personal communication through groups and social networks that have made clouds appear in the landscape. Public exposure of our data or the possibility of this happening is the darkest and will require new challenges and knowledge to control our privacy in the immediate future.