Wire is a beautiful new messaging app created by some of the key people behind Skype. The app is an effort to streamline some of the clunkiness that exists in virtually every messaging app out there. After trying it out this morning, I can say that the app succeeds. Whether anybody will use it or not is an entirely different question.
Wire is available for iOS, Android, and OS X, and after downloading the software, setting up an account is really easy, exactly as you'd expect with any service worth its salt. The key features that distinguish Wire from every other tool that allows you to message with fellow humans is the slick design and the overall fidelity of the service.
Wire's dark design is certainly easy on the eyes on both desktop and mobile. The desktop design's borderless window in particular looks sleek and contemporary compared the old-fashioned boundaries on everything from Slack to iMessage. On mobile, the design doesn't stand out from the crowd quite as starkly, but the mobile app does have a "ping" feature, which is basically like a Facebook Poke or a Yo.
The app is also really slick and works more seamlessly than anything I've used. Images upload quickly, and I noticed that when I sent a message on my phone it showed up on my desktop screen immediately. Even some of the best messaging apps experience lag here. Another nice touch: YouTube videos and SoundCloud embed and render previews when you drop in the URL. Not an entirely novel feature, but nice.
In addition to text chatting with one or more people, you can also launch voice chat, and given that Wire claims some pretty sophisticated technology here, it's worth dwelling on it a bit. If you've ever used voice calls on Google Hangouts or Skype, you know it's not quite frictionless, and the quality can be pretty crappy. Eric Limer and I had a quick call, which connected without a hitch and the quality sounded very good. That's hardly proof that the service is perfect. I've heard good calls on other services before. If you hadn't told me I was supposed to be hearing something better, I might not have noticed. Also it's easy to see how quality might suffer under the weight of more users.
There are bugs and kinks of course, but for an app that just launched, Wire is very good. Does the world really need another messaging app, though? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that a new service can't take hold if the stars align. For now though, Wire is missing the one crucial ingredient every messaging app needs: users, or at the very least a really awesome and unique feature that can pull them in.
If Wire is ever going to take off, it needs to offer more than just a marginal improvement. People are very, very stubborn. I'm still on AIM, which has perhaps the worst user experience in the world. I keep using it simply because I'm used to talking to my editor and a few colleagues on it. I like Wire, but am I gonna convince my friends, family, and co-workers to join me there? Probably not. But it'd be happy if they were there. [Wire]