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More Observations About The "Wire" App

Initial Thoughts On "Wire", The New Communication App From Ex-Skypers

Wire com 400Another remarkable day in Internet communications! Today brought the launch of "Wire", a "modern communications network" that runs on iOS, Android, Mac OS X and soon in WebRTC-equipped web browsers.

My first thought was naturally - do we really need YET-another-OTT-communication app?

After all, my iPhone is littered with the dead carcasses of so many other apps that have launched trying to be THE communication platform we all want to use. (And indeed I've written about many of them here on this site.)

But what makes Wire different for me from so many other similar apps that have launched (and faded) is really the PEOPLE involved. The news announcement mentions, of course, Skype co-founder Janus Friis as one of the big names behind Wire. Jonathan Christensen is also the co-founder and CEO of Wire. The news post says this:

The company's team comprises former product and technology leaders from Apple, Skype, Nokia, and Microsoft. Christensen held leadership roles at Microsoft and Skype, and was co-founder and CEO at Camino Networks. Along with Christensen, founders include Alan Duric, Wire’s CTO, a co-founder of Telio (Oslo exchange TELIO) and co-founder of Camino (acquired by eBay/Skype); and Priidu Zilmer, Wire’s head of product design, who led design teams at Vdio and Skype. Wire’s Chief Scientist Koen Vos, created SILK and co-created Opus, the standards for fidelity and intelligibility in voice over IP that billions of people use today.

I've known Jonathan over many years from his time at Skype. Alan Duric is a personal friend from the world of SIP, IETF and more. Some of the others are names I've known - and I've been told privately of others who are there, including apparently Jaanus Kase, who was one of the first working on Skype's community relations back in 2006/2007.

It certainly looks like an excellent team!

Does that mean it will succeed? Not necessarily... but it certainly has a far greater chance in my mind than many of the other attempts.

I have a GREAT amount I want to write about with regard to Wire, but for today I just want to write a few initial thoughts.

VERY Minimalist User Interface

When they say that Wire is about "simple, beautiful conversations", they aren't joking about the "simple" part. The user interface is extremely minimalist. All based on gestures and revealing just the information you need.

It's very cool as you get used to it... but it's also a bit non-intuitive - at least for older greybeards like me. At one point I simply wanted to reply in text and wound up calling someone (Alan, as it happened).

It is definitely great to see someone experimenting with a new UI to the degree that they have.

I installed it on both my iPhone 5s and my older iPad2. It worked great on both devices. The iPad, in particular, had a very nice view in the landscape mode. I did not yet install it on my Mac but spoke with several people who did.

Chats With Photos, SoundCloud and YouTube

When you start chatting with someone, it's very easy to add photos. You also could just drop in a link to a SoundCloud sound or a YouTube video and the player would automagically appear in the chat stream. And yes... animated GIFs work, too.

Call Quality - and Chats During The Call

I made several calls today and the quality was excellent. All high-quality voice. Presumably using the Opus codec or something similar. It's great that during the call you still have the full chat capability as I was sharing text and photos with the person I called.

Persistent Group Chats

I was extremely pleased to see how wonderfully well the "group chats" worked. Someone pulled a bunch of us "early adopters" into a chat room and it felt like we were back in 2006 or so in the early days of Skype and many of the early VoIP offerings. A very pleasant experience.

The group chat also synced very nicely between devices. A message I wrote on my iPad showed up just moments later on my iPhone. Others reported a similar experience with the Mac client.

Perhaps best of all the group chats appeared to be persistent group chats. After shutting down the app and then reconnecting later, I seemed to get all the messages that had been exchanged when I was offline. I've written before about the power of persistent group chats in Skype, and it was good to see what looked like something similar here. (Need to do more testing to confirm... but it looked good.)

What's Missing?

I realize today was the first day of the launch and that the product will evolve considerably, but some initial things I found missing:

  • Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of video, purely because that seems to be included in almost every other OTT communications app these days.
  • Not having a Windows client also seemed odd, given that they had a Mac OS X client. (Not that this mattered to me personally, but it just seemed odd.)
  • I also missed the ability to edit a message you've already posted.

So Now What?

I'm definitely intrigued by what I see... I'll keep using Wire and will install the Mac OS X client.

There's still the larger issue that this is yet-another-silo-of-communication that is separate from all the other mobile apps and services out there... but that's the topic for another post.

And there's the ever-present "directory" issue, i.e. how will Wire grow the directory of users so that you find the people there that you want to communicate with? But that, too, is a topic for another post. It's not clear, too, what the business model is.

I was also initially intrigued by the idea that Wire might work over IPv6 ... but while the www.wire.com website DOES work over IPv6 (yea!), further examination and network sniffing shows that the traffic going from the application goes to Amazon EC2 servers that are only on IPv4. I'm looking forward to learning more about what might or might not be true here.

All that aside, Wire looks so far like a very cool new entrant into the realm of mobile communications apps... and I'm looking forward to more experimentation and usage in the days and weeks ahead! If you are using Wire (or decide to try it out), please feel free to contact me in the Wire app as "Dan York" or via "dyork@lodestar2.com".

Congrats to Jonathan, Alan, Jaanus and the rest of the Wire team for their launch today!

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What Do YOU Think?

Have you tried Wire out yet? What do you think? Will you use it?


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