What is App Fog? How do I solve it?

February 03, 2022

Messaging apps are meant to be simple, but the sheer volume of them can be overwhelming.

You speak to Gran on Facebook because, let’s be honest, that’s the only app she knows how to use. Then we have Lucy over on Instagram. Your friends are split between Signal and Telegram. The family group chat is on WhatsApp, where you can’t get a word in edgeways. Your longtime work friend Jonathan keeps in touch via LinkedIn. All things work related go via email… and so on.

You get the point: Lots of apps, lots of friends, lots of confusion. We’ve coined a phrase for it: App Fog.

Until it’s officially accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, here’s a definition.

App Fog: ”The confusion that comes when multiple apps are used to send or receive messages. People forget which friends use which app and, consequently, struggle to stay on top of conversations.”

We’ve all experienced it and, sadly, even lost friends over it *queue audience awwww reaction* as a bit of research we commissioned shows.

How Element clears the fog

This whole ‘App Fog’ problem is one of the key reasons we built Element - to introduce interoperability between messaging apps (interoperability being ‘making stuff work together’) in pretty much the same way there’s interoperability between email clients.

It doesn’t matter which email client you use (Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook, Proton Mail etc), you can talk to everyone else regardless of the email client they use. Phone networks are the same; you might use Vodafone but you can call someone who uses T-Mobile.

So we’ve been working hard to make sure that Element can let you talk to your friends in whatever app they are using. That saves you from the faff and stress of messaging apps that don’t work together - so you can say goodbye to App Fog for good!

How does it work?

The ideal scenario is that all messaging apps use the same open standard so that - just like email - it doesn’t matter who uses what app because they all work together in harmony.

That’s what the Matrix open standard provides - a common way for messaging apps to operate; in the way email uses SMTP and the web uses HTTP.

Element is a messaging app built on top of Matrix. There are more than 100 other Matrix-based messaging apps. All of these automatically work together, making it super easy for anyone using a Matrix-based app. There’s nearly 50M users already active in the Matrix universe!

But the likes of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Discord have a different approach. They prefer to attract and lock-in as many users as possible - either so they can profit from the data they collect on their users, or because it’s just easier to build and manage their own app rather than making sure it can talk to others. These systems are walled gardens - the app owner has control and anyone who wants to participate has to use their app. It’s a bit like the kid who takes the ball home when they’re losing.

Eventually all these messaging apps will adopt the Matrix standard. But until then Element can ‘bridge’ to those systems - enabling Element users to zip across our (Matrix-based) bridges and communicate with whomever they please. So instead of *burning* bridges with your mates who use different messenger apps, we can help you *build* bridges!

Element bridges: let us help you relieve that stress and consolidate all communications into one messenger app.

The Matrix open standard - and Element - is not growing so fast just because of consumers wanting to solve App Fog.

There are a number of other reasons - ranging from protecting privacy, better security, more innovation and competition. And it’s not just consumer demand: the EU government is trying to change things too, by pushing the Digital Markets Act which is trying to force apps to interoperate.

Soon, those apps that don’t interoperate will be feeling the heat from the DMA and be challenged for their current business model by both the users and the regulator - and rightly so!

If you’d like to learn more about how Element can help you in this battle, you can download the Element app, learn more about Bridges and interoperability or sign up to Element One (bringing your WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram chats into Element).

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