I am sure much has been written about the fact that we all have a dozen IM clients installed on our phones, and every one of our contacts uses a different one. I’ve mostly not bothered to trim that down, installed all of them, and had an account with each, whether it’s Hangouts, Twitter, Facebook, Threema, SMS or IRC. But this last week makes me think that we need to get out of this situation.
I have been in hospitals for the past 6 days. That’s a time when people want to get in touch, get updates on my status, but also a time of bad Internet access. The first hospital had barely any patient WiFi to speak of, and this second one has an unsecured AP. I have an Android phone and no computer. The phone’s storage is nearly full, and I’m going to have to cut down on the number of installed apps, but can’t really kill any one of these messengers yet, except for Skype, because it really doesn’t work well on mobile devices. SMS is overall the most reliable form of communication, because it is the most democratic and widely distributed, and will always stick around as long as we have phones. I also need to keep it for my sister, who still doesn’t have a smart phone, and hardly checks messages on her laptop more than once a week. Facebook chat is the one where all of my friends are, but it lacks encryption. Almost all messengers fail on the encryption, so it’s nice that I can at least use these VPN functions in Orbot to route all of the internet traffic on my phone through Tor! Threema has end-to-end encryption, but literally no adoption. The latest offering in this space is Signal, which bills itself as an SMS client, and sends SMS when necessary, but encrypts messages over the Internet if both parties have it installed, and keeps everything inside a single app. A desktop client is in beta, too, which makes this more attractive than Threema. Given a choice, I would prefer that all of my friends ditch the text messaging clients on their phones for Signal, and ubiquitous encryption just happens eventually, but inertia is a terribly difficult thing to overcome.