I signed up with ICQ fairly early on (way pre-AOL) and have been following the IM space with great interest since
then. I worked for a year and a half at the virtual world startup There.com, which was a neat experience and definitely
got me thinking about ways to enhance communication between people. If you ever do sign onto There.com and see (and
hear) jukeboxes in the world, that's my code - I'm pretty sure that was the first 3D implementation of a Shoutcast MP3
My personal website is at http://david.weekly.org/.
What is IMsmarter?
It's a new kind of IM enhancement. Go to www.IMSmarter.com to check it out. Geeky people would call it a "proxy", but
the easiest way to think about it is as a secretary that helps you out by sitting between you and the rest of the
world, letting you know about things that are interesting and taking notes of your meetings so you can recall what was
said later. In the same way that you don't need to change your phone or mail systems when you get a secretary, IM
Smarter doesn't require you to change anything about your current IM habits - after a thirty-second configuration (not
requiring you to install any software), you're good to go. You just keep on using your favorite client on your favorite
OS: AIM, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, iChat, Trillian, whatever! It works on Windows, OS/X, and Linux!
Give us some example of IM Smarter in action.
It's 4pm; you're at work and you remember you were going to meet your buddy for dinner tonight, but you've forgotten
where. He's not online, but you had IMmed with him last night from home to discuss where you'd meet up. Without IM
Smarter, you'd be screwed - with IM Smarter you just log in to the web site, click on your buddy's name, and see the
chat you had last night.
You've got a lot going on and are feeling a bit scatterbrained; you've just put the clothes in the wash and need to
remember to move them over to the dryer in 40 minutes, plus the casserole needs to come out of the oven in 30 minutes.
You're doing a million other things and you know you'll forget when you need to do what. A "calendar" is the wrong tool
here. With IM Smarter, you just send two IMs:
bug me in 40 minutes about the clothes in the wash
bug me in 30 minutes about the casserole
And presto! Even if you log off and log back in, you'll get an IMmed reminder - even if you log on from a different
location and with a different screen handle! And even if you sign on with a different protocol!
Isn't this just like (Google Desktop / DeadAIM / Trillian)?
Google Desktop can be pretty handy, but can only search chats on the same computer from which you IMmed, can only
search them provided you IM using the official AIM client on Windows, and can only search them if you're running Google
Desktop application...and want to give everyone else who might ever sit down at your computer access to your full chat
logs without a password. It can't do any kind of IM notifications, and even search-wise it can't let you search "all
chats last week about sailing" or just search chats with a particular user. Google Desktop even makes it awkward to
simply say "I just want to search my instant messages!" IM Smarter lets you securely search instant messages and
richer-yet search functionality is planned for the near future. And you don't even have to install any software.
DeadAIM requires you to download software that modifies AIM. And it obviously only works with AIM. While you can log,
you can only search logs of chats you had on that computer, and even then only chats on AIM.
Trillian is pretty sweet; it's one of only a select few pieces of shareware that I've found valuable enough to pay
for. But it does require you to download a piece of software and change your IM habits. This hasn't proved popular with
most IM users. A number of the features that work smoothly in the official clients don't work very well in Trillian
(voice and video in particular). Trillian 0.74 and Trillian Pro 2 can both log chats but provide no real search
capability. Trillan 3.0, currently in beta, can only search chats that you had while chatting on that computer using
Trillian. All this said, you can use IM Smarter with Trillian; many of our users do! :)
What IM Smarter is doing - providing a zero-download consumer IM logging and notification service - is really a
completely new kind of thing.
What are the future features planned for IMsmarter?
Providing logging is interesting - and hopefully useful - to a lot of people, but it's really only the tip of the
iceberg. The really exciting and hugely novel stuff concerns notifications - the next major release (internally:
Release Seven) we'll be deploying a rich notification architecture to let you know not only when your buddies update
their websites, but when news likely to be of interest to you is happening; or when your package status changes with
UPS or FedEx. Really, any time when you get a short email or are obsessively rechecking a web page is an opportunity
for IM to make someone's lives easier.
One of the venues we'd like to explore is how we can help make IM more interesting and more secure; not just in terms
of the logging, but also in terms of connectivity. For instance, we'd like to help filter out IM virii for people and
let folks easily and safely share file attachments with whole sets of buddies. We take our users' privacy *extremely*
Ulevitch have signed. We're going to be continuing to look for ways to guarantee the sacred right of privacy for our
making a new "welcome" walkthrough that will hopefully make it clear that we're here as defenders of their privacy, not
A lot of very neat feature ideas come from our users, who email us with their ideas and post them on our forums at
http://forums.imsmarter.com/. We had one fantastically neat suggestion to let people upload exported calendars and
automatically get reminders; we've got that on our TODO list now. Many of the other suggestions range from layout
comments to radical new ways of using IM. We look forward to hearing about, implementing, and deploying lots of other
neat features suggested by our users - they really enjoy being able to talk directly with the developer of a service
they care about and influence its direction.
Can anyone with a device that runs an im client can use IMsmarter?
While most IM clients can use IM Smarter, there are unfortunately a few clients/devices that are not supported at this
time. Some devices that support instant messaging, like the Sidekick, do not have any way to configure the client to
use our service. We do hope to partner with organizations like T-Mobile at some point to be able to provide IM Smarter
functionality to these devices, but that's probably more than a month away.
What's the future of IM? is email on its way out?
Email isn't on the way out; IM is simply a different medium! IM may end up overtaking a number of the things for which
we currently use email, simply because IM is better at them. Email is good at some things that IM is not, like
composing a long, thoughtful reply, writing poetry or essays, or really anything where you need more than the
granularity of a single line of text in which to compose your thoughts. You can write out an email, think about it,
save it for later, then decide not to send it. You don't have that kind of flexibility with IM, nor do I think should
you - it's just the wrong medium for that kind of interaction. So I don't think email will go the way of the dodo. But
I do think that places where email can be annoying - like lots of tiny little notification emails and so forth - may
well end up migrating to IM, where they belong.
IM has many advantages to email in terms of timeliness, but the part I think a lot of people miss when reporting about
things like "SPIM" (IM SPAM) is that IM is fundamentally a centrally-authenticated protocol. The whole message delivery
process is through a single agent! Fundmentally, this makes spam on IM a much more tractably-solveable problem than
spam on email. And spoofing is incredibly harder on a mature IM system than on a mature email system. Generally, if you
get an IM from someone with whom you've chatted before, you can be fairly sure it's them[*]. At least much more so than
could be said for an email.
I think that in many ways IM has been kind of a second-class citizen, a bastard child of cyberspace. Business has
understood and embraced email, but IM is viewed as a kind of renegade thing; something that needs to be monitored,
controlled, and suppressed. When I first started getting into the IM enhancement market I was amazed to find a plethora
of services offering centralized logging, none of which actually provided any value to the people whose messages were
being logged! The "features" could *only* be used against you and couldn't help you do anything. They were only for
corporate compliance. While there's good money in that market, I'd rather write non-evil software. I wanted to make
something that could enhance people's IM experience and make IM a mature first-class Internet citizen with a service
that really changes the way that people look at IM. Obviously, IM Smarter has a long way to go, but I think that with
the help of our users, we'll quickly continue along that path. :)
Thanks so much for this interview!
Visit and try out IMSmarter for free.
[*] Cypherpunks reading this may point out that not only is IM not anywhere near end-to-end secure but that my entire
service is based upon this flaw. They'd be right. They might point out that email-compatible systems like PGP provide a
much better proof of identity than an IM handle. They'd also right about that. But for the average user, IM is a much
more secure and trustworthy communications environment than email.