I don’t know about you, but I’ve got seven different chat or instant messaging apps on my phone because some people I communicate with regularly use WhatsApp, others use SMS, Discord, Hangouts, and so on.

A new app called Beeper is designed to let me (and you) delete some or all of those apps and use just one to communicate with people who are using up to 15 different platforms. It’ll even let you chat with iMessage users without buying an Apple device… but you do have to jump through some extra hoops to do that, which might make Beeper a non-starter for some users.

Beeper is based on the open source Matrix messaging protocol and uses a series of bridges running on a server to connect the different messaging platforms so that whether someone tries to reach you via Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Skype, or SMS, the message will show up in the Beeper app on your phone.

But since iMessage only runs on Apple devices like Macs, iPhones, or iPads, there’s no way to set up an iMessage bridge on a network server. So Beeper came up with two different workarounds that will let you receive iMessage communications on an Android, Windows, or Linux device:

  • If you’ve got a Mac that’s always connected to the internet, install the Beeper Mac app and it’ll forward your messages to Beeper.
  • If you don’t have a Mac or don’t want to leave one running 24/7, Beeper will send you a jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed and it’ll work the same way.

That… should work. But it also seems like a pretty cludgy workaround for Apple’s reticence to make iMessage cross-platform.

Beeper isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but you can fill out a form on the website to request an invitation. Once you’re in, you can either pay $10 per month for a subscription or self-host the service on your own server, because while the Beeper client app is not open source, the “bridges” that allow the software to work are.

Here’s the list of communication apps that Beeper says it supports so far:

  • Android Messages (SMS)
  • Beeper network
  • Discord
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Hangouts
  • iMessage
  • Instagram
  • IRC
  • Matrix
  • Signal
  • Skype
  • Slack
  • Telegram
  • Twitter
  • Whatsapp

Overall Beeper reminds me of desktop apps like Trillian and Pidgin which I used to use a decade ago to communicate with friends and family whether they were using AIM, MSN Messenger, or other chat platforms. But the new version is designed for the smartphone era… and of course it comes with a subscription price for folks who aren’t prepared to self-host.

The app comes from developer Eric Migicovsky, the founder of smartwatch maker Pebble (which was sold to Fitbit… which was sold to Google).

via The Verge

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  1. I find it sorta backwards. Platforms should pay bleeper to be hosted, rather than user paying bleeper for the priv.

  2. So a system that relays a bunch of messages through a server which is not your device and you might not control. At least some of those options are supposed to be end-to-end encrypted, so that advantage gets killed for each one. And even those which aren’t E2E have credentials, which presumably you’re now storing on the server, which is possibly a TOS violation and presents a nice target for an attacker even if you’re using your own server for it. And even if you trust their servers and app, the benefits of breaking into it are very tempting for attackers.
    Hard pass. I wonder if it will be possible to detect that someone’s using that so I can send them warnings about what they’re getting themselves into.

  3. All I know about this stuff is that WhatsApp will definitely kick you out when they notice you use their app through a 3rd party bridge.

    On an unrelated note, @Brad, thanks for sharing your experience
    on your other blog.

    I wanted to give you a thorough answer there but it takes some time for me to research this stuff. Meanwhile said post will be long forgotten or at least buried behind several newer pages. As to give you some constructive criticism of linuxsmartphones.com compared to liliputing.com, on the latter you can see the number of comments on the main page and on top of every post while on the former you have to scroll down to the bottom of each post.

    Relating back to this post, communication over the Internet is broken. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. Yeah, that’s a side effect to the themes I’m using. For Liliputing I’m using a modified version of Automattic’s open source NewsPack theme that required a bunch of hacks to do things like get the comment count to show up at the top.

      For LinuxSmartphones, I’m experimenting with using an off-the-shelf NewsPack theme with just some custom CSS so that I can install updates without the need to re-hack the them every time.

      It means I have less control over the look and feel of LinuxSmartphones, but it’s also easier to apply bug fixes and feature/security updates. Hopefully one day the developers of the theme will add native support for moving the comment count to the top where you’d expect them to be!

  4. This reminds me of the days of yore (mid to late 90’s) when there were competing ‘instant messenger’ systems for the desktop. These included ICQ, AIM, Yahoo!, etc. I think there was an app called Babbel then later Trillian to bring them all together. Good times.
    Now we get to see the same thing for mobile phones.

  5. I don’t know about “designed for the smartphone era”, it’s more like “designed for the current era of whatever applications happen to be popular right now which phones may have had something to do with”, since most of those things have desktop clients of web clients that are basically the same as the desktop one.
    I might call it designed for the Javascript era.
    I would imagine you need to install all the bridges to not have to use their proprietary app (presume it’s full of spyware until proven otherwise). Their recommended way to install all the bridges is to…oh man. I can’t even begin to comment on how bloated all this is. It’s horrifying. I’m estimating that’s 2 gigabytes of stuff you have to install. An IRC Server, while limited, is 2 megabytes. 34 docker containers (and probably more on the way), how many cpu cores do they think you have!? We can’t all have threadrippers!
    Seven chat clients it is then.

    1. Yeah more available processing and storage was supposed to free us to be more productive but in fact freed the very wrong kind of platforms, architectures, bloat, complications, akin to how clutter can take over any space no matter what size. Bigger size = more clutter.