Motherboard

Messaging Apps, Ranked

An exhaustive consideration of the ways humans interact with each other.

by Motherboard Staff
Mar 29 2017, 9:11pm

Talking to other humans, GOOD or BAD? It's hard to say for sure, but in our eons-long quest to answer this question, we've invented many protocols in hopes of finding more seamless ways to message each other. As fellow humans, we here at Motherboard went ahead and ranked the various messaging apps that have been developed over the years in hopes of making your human-human interactions less painful. Apps were ranked based on a mishmash of their historical relevance and staying power, ease of use, speed, security, and, most of all, the other humans you are likely to encounter using them. -Jason Koebler, Emanuel Maiberg, and Sarah Emerson

*

#48 - Facebook Messenger: Truly awful. Can be stalkery. Messages often get stuck in the "other" inbox. Annoying popup bubbles on Android, in the past has been known to cause battery drain. Functionally the app works fine, but it's the worst because it is primarily used to bother you by people you purposefully don't have on other messaging apps. 

Image: Tinder

#47 - Tinder: Belongs in the seventh ring of hell. A merciful deity disabled pictures, forcing dickpic senders to creep you out with their prose.

Image: Jason Koebler

#46 - Skype: Good for reminding you the guy you interviewed seven years ago has a birthday. Preferred by journalists who can't afford long-distance calls.

#45 - Allo: A trojan horse for Google AI research/possibly surveillance.

#44 - MMS: Like downloading a picture on a 14.4K modem but for phones.

Image: YouTube/Justin Paste

#43 - AOL Chat Rooms A/S/L?

#42 - GroupMe: Used by fratbros who think WhatsApp is too ethnic.

#41 - WeChat: One of the most popular chat apps in the world; used almost exclusively in China. As such, has made various concessions to Chinese censors and intelligence agencies.

Image: Butupa/Flickr

#40 - Skywriting: No matter what you say, you're really writing "I'm a rich jerk." Most blatantly anti-environment messaging app.

#39 - Yahoo Messenger: Remember when Yahoo thought it could become AOL?

#38 - YikYak: The most notable innovation in high school bullying in years.

#37 - Carrier Pigeons: Phenomenal example of human-bird symbiosis.

#36 - Line: Much like South Korea's KakaoTalk, Japan's sticker hustle was way ahead of the curve when it comes to instant messaging.

#35: - Smoke Signals: Significantly more fire than other messaging apps. Highly insecure as the messages can be intercepted by anyone within visual line of sight.

#34 - Google Talk: A standalone version of Gchat that seemed like it was coded in 15 minutes by someone on their lunch break.

#33 - Hipchat: The TextEdit of chat apps, was exclusively used by Motherboard at one point. Great for inviting randos to ~see behind the scenes~.

#32 - FaceTime: Only used by grandparents and pervs, makes you look bad, is definitely someone's fetish, should be illegal.

Image: MrApp4That/YouTube

#31 - Firechat: I'm at the ROCKSTAR ENERGY STAGE. Message not sent.

#30 - Kik: Used by people who want to sell nudes and used panties, ISIS.

#29 - Venmo: The only messaging app that makes you literally pay the person you're texting.

#28 - Instagram: Easy to miss and high risk for dickpics. The only reason this exists is to share posts with friends without openly tagging them in the comment section.

#27 - Trillian: Trillian is an app that plugs into many of the other IM clients on this list, allowing you to chat with friends on Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and others without having to alt-tab. Useful, sure, but can you really trust a friend that can't commit?

#26 - Viber: So many stickers, still kind of clunky, apparently has end-to-end encryption, good for international chatting. Name sounds like a dildo (this is good).

Image: Shutterstock

#25 - Face-to-face chatting: Limited emoji set, but no lag allows for completely synchronous communication and nuance among skilled users.

Image: Bart Everson/Flickr

#24 - Paper notes: Do you like getting the best gossip during class? ✓ Y/N

#23 - BBM: Only lawyers, government employees, and people getting MBAs fuck with this.
Narcs only. Likely accessed by pulling BlackBerry from belt holster.

#22 - Slack: Command line interface is great and I would love to see more chat apps take this approach. Many cool extensions and ways to customize it. Improved upon Gchat's original progress as preferred locale for workplace gossip. Also, a Slack notification is the worst notification you can get in the middle of the night because it probably means ya done fucked up.

#22 - Hangouts: Tinkered to death by Google; a bloated version of Gchat that has been shoved down our throats but will always have marketshare because everyone uses Gmail. The Homer of messaging apps.

Image: Shutterstock

#21 - Telegrams (actual telegrams): Security by obscurity for olds.

Image: Shutterstock

#20 - Email: 

Dear Email,

Nice to "meet" you! You're great for sending attachments, chain letters, and proclamations to hundreds of people at a time. Ripe for relationship-ending FWD/reply all/CCing fuck ups.

Best,
Motherboard

#19 - Discord: Dankest memes but filled with nazis and possibly child porn.

Image: Google

#18 - Google Wave: Taken from us too soon RIP.

#17 - Telegram: Currently vying with Discord as the dankest decentralized meme market because Signal has outpaced it as the de-facto choice for security nerds.

Image: Jason Koebler

#16 - KakaoTalk: While western normies were sending ASCII-based emojis, South Korea was building the future of sticker-based instant messaging. In the US, used primarily by weeaboos.

#15 - US Postal Service: Allows for exchange of physical goods and grand, romantic gestures. Considerably more expensive than the others on this list.

#14 - Fax: Good for trolling Congress, clearing up shit with doctors. Subject of funniest messaging-centric piece of writing of all time.

#13 - TeamSpeak: You might think you're hardcore with your Xbox headset, but real pros don't use in-game voice, or coordinate team practice via in-game chat. That's for noobs. If you want to go pro you pay for your own server.

Image: Sarah Emerson

#12 - Twitter DM: Primarily for closet creeps and clearing up how Not Mad you are away from public eyes.

#11 - Signal: Great if you wanna talk to hackers, drug dealers, or people who talk to either. Clunky interface but mostly works and in all seriousness, is one of the most secure options out there.

#10 - WhatsApp: AUTOMATICALLY SAVES EVERY IMAGE SHARED IN CHATS TO YOUR DEVICE. Fast, everyone is on it. Just seems to work. 21st century version of MSN Messenger in that it means you have international friends. Encrypted. Partially ruined by the creeping but confident sense that Facebook will eventually ruin it.

#9 - Snapchat: Wait what did you say the message disappeared and I forgot what we were talking about.

#8 - MSN Messenger: Allowed you to telegraph to your friends that you were worldly and international well before wifi messaging was a thing; you could also change your display name which was always good for a lol.

#7 - SMS: Psychos who shamelessly text iPhone users even though they've been branded with green bubbles are societal heros.

#6 - iMessage: The only reason to own an iPhone.

#5 - Gchat: Used almost exclusively for shit talking coworkers and gossiping with friends, but its inclusion in Gmail allows for the illusion that you're doing work. In that sense, truly a trailblazer for future workplace timewasters like Slack. Like Reader, has been unceremoniously killed by Google even though it was still good. RIP.

Image: Twitter/SmarterChild

#4 - AIM: (Please stop reading if you were born after 1990.) AIM was the OG best chat app. RIP AIM. AIM signed off.

#3 - IRC: Where the real internetting happens; please pay respect to the hacktivists, warez groups, and internet moderation teams who get real shit done while they toil in #channels the world over.

Image: Yo

#2 - Yo: Yo. YO.

#1 - ICQ: "Uh-oh!" It's one of the first and the best, the one and only, the IM client that kicked it into high gear: I Seek You. This little Israeli-made client was such a hit around the world that AOL acquired it in 1998 for $287 million. In the late 90s, having a low ICQ number conferred such street cred that people were auctioning off low numbers on eBay. It continued to grow after the acquisition, hitting a peak of 100 million registered users in 2001. In fact, it's probably the reason this list exists at all.