The PhoneBoy Blog


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Doin’ the IM Time Warp

Andy and I have both been victims of what I would like to call the Skype Time Warp. You know, when you type an IM message and the other person sees it hours or days later? This has happened a lot lately, at least between Andy and I.

One thing I like about Gizmo Project and other forms of IM is that you have some assurance the other person got the message. Why? Because the IM traffic flows through centralized servers. That server knows that both parties are alive and whether or not those messages can be delivered. 

As I test, I sent one of my test accounts an IM on Gizmo project. Of course that identity was offline. I then installed Gizmo in my Win2k instance inside Parallels and fired up Gizmo as that identity. The message came through loud and clear right after I connected, though it did not show the timestamp from when it was originally sent. Bummer.

Yahoo allows you to send offline messages, and at least in the official Yahoo client, you get timestamps. Adium doesn't always pick up messages sent offline though, though when it does, I also see a timestamp. :)

AIM/ICQ and MSN do not allow you to send messages to people offline at all. That's not entirely a bad thing. However, the various clients give you the option to send messages when they are back online.

I tried out Skype again in a controlled environment–one where I control both ends–and low and behold messages were delivered with the right timestamps, but there was some delay in receiving them of course.

If Skype is going to be a business tool, then it needs to support reliable delivery of IM messages. I need to know that if someone sends me a message, they are going to get it, and get it right away if they're online, and as soon as they come back online when they're not. Skype offers no such guarantee. I don't know that the others do, but they are architected in a way that makes it possible and they generally deliver. Skype with its decentralized network of supernodes makes it difficult to guarantee delivery of IM messages. 


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