6 Social Media Platforms That Aren’t Facebook

6 Social Media Platforms That Aren’t Facebook

In recent weeks, some people have begun to question how much they use Facebook. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many have felt a little uneasy about how much information Facebook obtains.

It’s important to note, though, that many (probably most) other social media platforms are gathering a fair amount of your data. They may handle it differently, but there is likely quite a bit of your information stored when you use any social media platforms at all.

Still, you might be wondering if there are other ways to enjoy using social media without actually using Facebook. Facebook is one of the most popular, active, and widely used social media sites out there, and it might seem like your only option. But there are other platforms that you might like just as much (or more).
If you’re thinking about leaving Facebook, or if you enjoy Facebook but want even more ways to stay connected, here are just some of the other social media platforms you can give a try!

Instagram

Instagram is, of course, a hugely popular app that focuses on images. You can use it to keep up with your friends’ lives through photos and videos. It also has built-in messaging, so you can share things directly with other people and discuss them privately. You won’t necessarily be getting the same insight into your friends’ thoughts, and it currently doesn’t let you share other peoples’ content, but it’s still a good way to keep in contact with your favorite people.

Pinterest

Pinterest is still typically for inspiration and DIY ideas. But you and your friends can share content together and keep in touch through your different boards. This platform is certainly less focused on updates about peoples’ daily lives, so don’t rely on it for that. But you can at least see what your friends are interested in.

Reddit

Reddit isn’t really a social media platform. But you can follow friends on the service, and if you actually are looking to drop Facebook, Reddit can help replace your need for a stream of interesting content and news shared by groups and people you subscribe to.

Snapchat

Snapchat is another photo- and image-based way to keep connected to friends and family. It’s likely that most of the people you’re close with already use Snapchat. You can follow them through their Stories, have private chats with them, communicate through short video clips, and more. You can’t easily share other peoples’ content or write medium to long text images, but you can still communicate pretty well with this app.

Tumblr

Tumblr lets you set up your own blog and then create your own posts or share posts from others. You can add others and gain subscribers. Tumblr is often seen as being primarily used by a younger crowd, but there’s certainly a space for everyone. It’s also pretty hugely driven by fandoms (many people on Tumblr use their accounts to post primarily about shows, movies, and other things they’re fans of). It’s not quite as focused on simply keeping up with a friend’s daily life. But if you want to keep up with your friends’ interests and make new friends based on things you both enjoy, Tumblr might be for you.

Twitter

Twitter is a nice way to keep up with others using smaller text snippets. Though it’s grown most popular for its use in getting news out quickly, you can also form your circle of friends and keep up with each other via tweets. You can retweet, which adds another level of personality to someone’s feed, and now that tweets can be longer than before, it’s easier to write more detailed, lengthy updates.

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook and Its Data Scandal

Facebook has been in the news quite a lot recently, and not necessarily for good reasons.

The social media service appears in the news on a regular basis any given week, but for the past week, a lot of focus has been on their data scandal and what will come of it. During that news, Facebook has announced some upcoming changes to its service.

Here’s what you might have missed over the past week or so, including a brief recap of Facebook’s data issues!

Some of Facebook’s newest announcements have come now that Zuckerberg has apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg issued an apology for what happened with their recent data scandal. According to CNN Money, Zuckerberg issued the apology during a TV interview on CNN. In his interview, he mentions the policy changes that have been put in place since the incident and notes that these policies should have been in place sooner. He also spoke about his regret that people weren’t informed about the issue sooner.

Facebook’s data scandal revolves around how some Facebook user data was accessed by an app (which is typical) and then, against Facebook policy, shared with a third party.

According Zuckerberg in his CNN interview, users will be notified if their information was shared during the incident. And The Verge writes that Facebook will be changing how developers can access Facebook users’ data.

Amid all of this negative press, one WhatsApp founder has said to delete Facebook. One of the founders of the popular messaging app has called out Facebook during their scandal concerning user data.

Brian Acton, who helped create WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, is now warning people that they should leave Facebook. The Independent reports that Acton tweeted that it was “time” to stop using the social media giant. He doesn’t specifically discuss the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the timing of his tweet suggests his tweet was referencing Facebook’s current data issues.

You may remember that earlier this year Acton gave Signal (a secure messaging service) millions of dollars, which I wrote about back in February.

With Zuckerberg’s recent apology, it’s clear that Facebook is making a point to address this data issue and reassure users. Whether current users will jump ship due to the scandal and Acton’s call to leave Facebook remains to be seen.

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal, Maker of Signal Messenger, Receives $50 Million

Signal seems to be doing well at the moment, as it’s now being reported that they’ve received $50 million from the co-founder of WhatsApp.

Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp and who previously worked for Facebook, is now aligned with Signal and providing them with millions of dollars. Acton is no longer with Facebook or WhatsApp, and he will be the executive chairman for the Signal Foundation, a new organization.

According to a blog on Signal’s website, the Signal Foundation is a just-launched 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that will further Signal’s mission. Acton also provides a message on Signal’s blog, explaining Signal’s mission, which is “to develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication.” Signal (and Acton) believe it’s important to offer secure communication to everyone across the world, and they hope to do this with the Foundation.

Signal has become fairly popular with their Signal Messenger, a service that encrypts messages (offering end to end encryption) and provides more security than typical messaging services. It’s meant to make people feel more certain that their messages aren’t being compromised. It offers security for those who might be concerned about government spying or their texts being intercepted for nefarious purposes.

The Signal Protocol, which is from Open Whisper Systems and used for Signal Messenger, is also used in services like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Specifically, Facebook Messenger uses Signal to offer Secret Conversations. These locked-down messages can be sent by opening a conversation with someone, clicking the information button in the corner of the conversation, and choosing to “Go to Secret Conversation.” The conversation will then use Signal Protocol to encrypt the messages sent and received.

While Signal has been frowned upon by some government agencies like the FBI (according to Newsweek), for many it’s simply a way to feel more secure and private. With the money the Signal Foundation has received, Signal will be able to increase the size of its staff and do more with their service.

(Featured image: Signal website)

Say Goodbye to Swype Keyboard

Say Goodbye to Swype Keyboard

Swype, the enormously popular swipe keyboard, is no more. As of right now, Swype is not available to download from Google Play or the App Store.

The Swype keyboard has now been discontinued, bringing to an end one of the most popular keyboard apps—and one of the earliest swipe keyboards, the one that helped popularize swiping to text in the first place.

Swype came onto the scene back in the 2000s, and it eventually introduced a lot of people to the swipe keyboard. It allowed people to do something they’d possibly never done before—swipe their fingers across the keys to write words quickly and easily. It eventually grew to offer more than just its predictive text. It could learn your writing style, it let you customize its appearance (including its layout) and features, and it offered voice to text.

Since Swype launched and became wildly popular, more and more keyboard apps have been released with similar features. And if you’re using a recent smartphone, you very likely can swipe to text on the default keyboard, meaning you might not even think to try out a third-party keyboard app. This may not necessarily be a reason for Swype’s end, but it does mean that there was already a great deal of competition, and another keyboard app can likely take its place.

The reason Swype is being discontinued, according to a statement given to XDA Developers, is because Nuance, the developers, plan to focus more on other areas in the tech world. Particularly, they mention “AI-powered solutions” for other markets. They also note that the tech used for Swype will still be used elsewhere.

Though users who have already downloaded Swype can keep using it, it can’t be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store. It also won’t be updated or supported further in the future, meaning it’s now in its final incarnation.

Just last week, I wrote an article describing some of the most popular keyboard apps available now. While Swype may be going away, there are still quite a few other keyboard apps that can make typing better. If you use Swype and want to see what other good alternatives there are, check out my article, then say a fond farewell to the soon-to-be-missed Swype.

(Featured image: Swype website)

Plan Your Valentine’s Day Online

Plan Your Valentine’s Day Online

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, and whether you have a significant other or not, you may still want to make plans. And with so many specific sites and apps out there these days, it’s easier than ever to plan your February 14th by using your internet connection.

The internet can play an important role in how you prepare for any holiday. But with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about how you can make the day easier. You may not even know how many helpful apps and sites there are that cater to lovebirds, people who are looking, and people who are single.

If you have a special someone, or if you don’t have a date for the 14th yet (and even if you don’t want one), scroll through for some ways you can improve Valentine’s Day this 2018!

Find a date

There are definitely plenty of dating sites and apps to choose from. You can find more general sites, like most of the ones below, or you can narrow your search to sites that focus on a specific interest. If you don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day and you’d like to, you might find someone who’s looking for a date for the 14th themselves.

  • Match—Match is the popular dating site that’s been around since the 90s. You can join for free, but to really use the site, you’ll need a subscription.
  • Zoosk—Zoosk is another well-known dating site, this one started in the mid-2000s. Like Match, you can join for free, but you’ll need to pay to actually use their services.
  • Tinder—If you want to try a free way to maybe find a Valentine’s Day date, give Tinder a shot. Keep in mind, people using Tinder have a wide variety of agendas, and it’s not like a dating site that has a detailed algorithm for matches.
  • OkCupid—OkCupid has also been hugely popular for years. OkCupid also has a free version, as well as a paid version. With OkCupid, though, you can do more in the free version than other sites.
  • Coffee Meets Bagel—This app is a newer dating option that began in the mid-2010s and has been gaining in popularity. You have suggested matches every afternoon who are chosen through their algorithm.

Plan an outing

If you want to go out this year, you have a few things to consider. Here are just a few ways you can plan your day (or night).

Take a trip—If you’re going out of town, you might want to stay with Airbnb. Or if your plans are slightly more last-minute, give HotelTonight a look.

Find a restaurant—If you want to make a reservation, try the OpenTable app. And of course, the top app for searching for the best restaurant choice is still Yelp.

Look for special events in town—If you want to spend your Valentine’s Day going to an event you’ll both like, find out what’s happening nearby with something like Eventbrite, or search through Events on Facebook.

Stay in

You don’t have to hit the town or take a trip to celebrate. If you do plan a night in, take a look and see if these apps and sites can make it special.

Cook—When you decide to try your hand at cooking a romantic dinner, download a cooking app like BigOven (Android or iOS) or Food Network in the Kitchen (Android or iOS) for a little extra help. Both offer thousands of recipes to choose from.

Order in—Maybe cooking isn’t really your thing. If that’s the case, you can always find food to order with apps like GrubHub and UberEats, both of which let you find what’s nearby and have it delivered to you.

Play music—Playlists and genre stations can help give your night atmosphere. You can always make your own playlist with Spotify or find a themed one, and Pandora has plenty of playlists for different occasions (including Love Songs Radio).

Give something nice

It’s not a requirement to buy something for your Valentine’s Day date, but it can be a nice gesture! If you think your date would like something for the occasion, here are some places you can find something for them without leaving home.

Sweets—Chocolates and other candies are an obvious (and usually well-liked) choice for Valentine’s Day. See’s Candies offers a lot of different options for candy. 1-800-Flowers may have “Flowers” in the name, but they also have a large selection of sweets. And Godiva has many different chocolate options. All of these sites specifically have pages dedicated to Valentine’s Day sweets.

Arrangements—Whether you want flowers or something a little different, an arrangement can be a nice gift. 1-800-Flowers has many, many different options for bouquets and other types of flowers. Shari’s Berries offers many different bouquets that can be paired with their berries (meaning you can order a bouquet with chocolate covered strawberries). ThinkGeek is a little bit different—instead of sending a bouquet of flowers, you might want to send a bouquet of plushies (like a bouquet of plush dragons).

Gifts—If you’re not sure what to get someone for Valentine’s Day, take a look at my list of gift finders! It includes several websites that offer gift suggestions and even let you buy the suggested gifts right there on the site.

Custom Valentine’s Day cards—You can always buy a card at a local store, but if you want something a little more personal, you can make your own card. Canva lets you create a card from scratch or choose from many different templates, and Shutterfly has a large selection of card choices that you can customize with things like text and photos.

Connect long-distance

If your significant other is going to be out-of-town on the 14th, or if your relationship is long-distance, Valentine’s Day may seem like a downer. But there are ways to make the day a little nicer from far away. Below are just a few ways you can make the day more romantic with some helpful apps.

Plan a scavenger hunt—If your partner is away, try planning something fun for them to do anyway. One popular scavenger hunt app, Klikaklu, lets you create your own hunts and then send them to a specific person (or make them public). It’s only available for iOS, but you can try something kind of similar with Seek&Spot, another scavenger hunt app that lets you create your own hunts.

Send poetry—If you’re not a poet yourself, don’t worry. You can find plenty of romantic poems to send on Valentine’s Day. Love Poems is available for Android, and it lets you search, save, and send poems. On iOS, you can try Valentine’s Love Poems for romantic poems you can share.

Keep in touch—If you’re long-distance, make sure you’re staying connected. Couple is an app that can be helpful on Valentine’s Day, since it lets you message each other, and it also has ThumbKiss, which is a feature that makes phones vibrate when both people press their thumbs to same spot on their phones.

Skip romance

There’s been plenty in this article for those who have a date or are looking for one. But being without a romantic date on Valentine’s Day is awesome, too. There are plenty of things to do if you’re single on February 14th. Here are just a couple ideas!

Find a Second Halloween—Some people are skipping Valentine’s Day and celebrating Second Halloween instead. Your town might be throwing a Second Halloween bash—search for “2nd Halloween” or “Second Halloween” on Facebook, narrow your results to “Events,” and see what you find!

Celebrate Galentine’s Day—Galentine’s Day is a popular way for women to celebrate on the 13th without worrying about romance. For many, it replaces Valentine’s Day celebrations. You can plan your own Galentine’s Day by using a site like RSVPify. Or if you’re new to town and looking for friends to invite, you might give Bumble a shot; Bumble is for finding friends, dates, business partners, and more, not just a dating site.

Snapchat’s Redesign Is Not Going Over Well

Snapchat’s Redesign Is Not Going Over Well

The Snapchat app has been redesigned in an update released in some select countries, and so far, the news isn’t great. In fact, it’s pretty bad. TechCrunch is reporting that 83% of the App Store reviews have a negative response to the new update.

TechCrunch also notes the most used words in those reviews include “new update” and “please fix.” Some users are asking how to go back to a previous version (Snapchat Support says they can’t), and overall, users of the new update are suggesting the redesign is unnecessarily confusing.

The Independent notes that one major complaint among users is how Stories are now laid out. If you want to see your friends’ Stories, you must now swipe right (instead of left) and find the Stories jumbled in with your messages. And TechCrunch adds that autoplaying Stories is no longer possible in the update. Instead, users have to tap to get to the next Stories, adding extra (and seemingly unnecessary) steps to the process.

Users are letting their feelings out in more areas than just the App Store. The Twitter hashtag #snapchatupdate is full of Tweets about the update. Some people are tweeting about ways people with the update might be able to revert to a previous version. Others are venting their frustration, while some are cracking jokes and mocking Snap’s redesign decision. @WakehamNick jokes, “User: I believe that the Apple Watch has the worst user interface. Snapchat: hold my beer. #snapchatupdate,” while @SheriannemilleR warns, “DONT UPDATE YOUR SNAPCHAT APP. DONT DO IT. ITS HORRIBLE. #snapchatupdate.”

Facebook is also filled with posts about the update. Many users are sharing articles with negative responses to the update. Even more users are discussing ways to remove the update, and like Twitter users, they’re begging Snap to change back to the previous design. There are, of course, some positive responses to the update—but these comments are few when compared to the negative reviews.

Right now the update is only in a few countries, including U.K., Australia, and Canada, says TechCrunch. It’s not currently available in the U.S., which means there could potentially be time for Snap to listen to its users and change back. Unfortunately, there’s no suggestion this will happen—in fact, they’ve addressed the response by suggesting users just need time to get used to the change and come to enjoy it.

In any case, when this update does come to the U.S. and other countries, the overwhelmingly negative response from this past week gives many people the chance to decide whether to install the new update.

Facebook in the News—Devices, Apps, & Features

Facebook in the News—Devices, Apps, & Features

Quite a bit has happened with Facebook over the past week. From upcoming devices and features to app updates, there’s a lot to catch up on!

A New Device?

Facebook may be releasing a home voice-activated device, joining the likes of Amazon and Google in the world of voice controlled products. This news comes from Cheddar, a livestreaming network that covers subjects like finance and technology.

According to Cheddar, Facebook’s video chat device will be called “Portal,” and it will be focused on social connection, including more features than just video chatting. It will also use a wide-angle lens and incorporate its facial recognition technology so it can connect people it sees to their Facebook accounts. (You might recall Facebook’s facial recognition tech was recently in the news because of its use in a new tagging feature.)

This focus does make Facebook’s potential new device sound a little different from devices like the typical smart device which functions as a personal assistant. With “Portal,” there will be a straightforward purpose—social engagement—though there will also be access to things like Spotify and Netflix.

Cheddar notes that the current plan is to officially announce “Portal” in May, as well as to sell it for $499. This is a pretty hefty price tag for a voice-controlled device, but of course, we’ll have to wait a while to get confirmation of the device and more details. At this point, not much is really known about its full features.

App Updates

Facebook also released Messenger Kids for more devices this week. TechCrunch reports that Facebook’s messaging app is now available for Fire tablets. The app was previously available for iOS.

Messenger Kids is the child-safe version of Messenger. Children can use it to send messages and make video calls. However, they can only contact people approved by a parent, and kids aren’t able to hide messages from their parents, which makes it easier for parents to keep watch on their communication.

Upcoming Features

Facebook is also testing a new feature that lets users check in on credible local news. The section is called ‘Today In,’ and it is made up of local topics and content, according to Recode. It’s currently being tested in 6 cities, but eventually they hope to bring it to more cities and let users keep up with other cities they don’t currently live in.

The content will include local topics and news, all coming together through machine-learning software. The news content will only include articles from places their News Partnerships team has verified. This is so that users can feel more confident in the credibility of what they’re seeing.

It’s unclear when this feature might come to other cities. Until then, we can wait and see how it goes over in the current test cities.

Organize Your Upcoming Events Online

Organize Your Upcoming Events Online

The holidays are creeping closer, and with that in mind, you might be thinking about the events you have to plan. If you’re in charge of the family’s holiday dinner or your friends’ Thanksgiving dinner, or even if you just like to plan special events, internet access can make things really easy.

Even though texting and emailing can make things go more smoothly than they did in the past, it can sometimes seem confusing and tedious keeping track of all the texts you’re getting, keeping up with everyone’s contributions, making note of who’s going and who isn’t, and remembering who you’ve told what.

With some basic websites and apps, you can make putting together your holiday event (or any event) run much more smoothly. Here are just a few ways you can use the internet to reduce stress this holiday season!

Create a private Facebook event

I’m sure you know you can create Facebook events, but honestly, creating a private one can be a huge time saver. Depending on the group you’ll be inviting, every invitee might already be on Facebook. If they are, it makes things pretty easy. You can choose to make your event private so that only you and the people you invite know it exists. People can leave comments, let you know if they’re going, and get all the details in one place. Of course, if any of the invitees aren’t on Facebook or don’t check it regularly, it might not be the best way to go. Also, people can be flaky when it comes to Facebook invites. They’ll often choose “Interested” and never change the status to “Going,” so it can be hard to get a headcount at times. If these aren’t issues you’re worried about encountering, a private Facebook event may take care of most of your needs.

Use the GroupMe app

GroupMe is a super helpful app when you want to communicate with a group. Everyone knows that group texts can be irritating at times, especially if you’re trapped in one you don’t want to be part of. GroupMe lets you create groups made up of people using the GroupMe app or just people with texting capabilities. If you’re in the group, you can remove yourself or turn off notifications, so you won’t feel trapped. You could use GroupMe to invite people to the party, update them on changes, get their ideas, or anything else. It’s a useful way to communicate with a whole group without making them feel stuck in an unwanted group text.

Use Facebook Messenger to poll guests

Facebook Messenger can work pretty well to form group messages as well, but one particularly cool use for it is polling. If you create a group message with the invitees who are on Facebook, you can message a poll through the app and get peoples’ thoughts in a helpful way. You might need to know what time would work best for everyone, or you could be trying to figure out the best venue. Whatever the case may be, it’s a straightforward way to work out the details of your event, particularly if you already have the Messenger app or if you have access on a desktop.

Set up a Google Doc to keep track of info

Google Docs can be a lifesaver when trying to organize something or work together with a group. If you have a Google account, you can create a Google Doc and invite others to collaborate with you by editing the document. This could make things really well-organized for, say, a potluck. People could edit the document by adding their name and what they were bringing. Then every time someone opened the document, they would be able to see what was already covered and use that to figure out what was still needed. With a Google Doc, it takes some of the responsibility of organizing out of the host’s hands.

Use RSVPify to figure out who’s coming

Finding out who’s coming to an event can sometimes be crucially important. Knowing the attendance numbers can change how much food you make, how much seating is needed, etc. As previously mentioned, it can sometimes be hard to get a true headcount on a Facebook event. That could still be an issue everywhere, but it might make things a little easier if you used a service like RSVPify. You can create a free event and send a link to everyone for them to RSVP. This is especially useful if not all of the invitees are active on Facebook. It also might seem a little more official and important than a Facebook invite, so who knows, you might get a more accurate headcount.

Offer a collaborative playlist for wider music selection

Instead of going to the trouble of putting together a playlist yourself, you can make it a group effort. If you want some mood music for your party, like Christmas music, you can create a collaborative playlist on Spotify and invite other Spotify users to add to it. This way you don’t have to focus on coming up with a full playlist, plus your attendees will get a say in what’s being played for everyone. It’s just one small way that a host can make their guests feel like they’re part of the planning process.

Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Internet 101: Which Messaging App is Right for You?

Communication has certainly changed dramatically over the years. When email entered our lives, it changed the way we could communicate. When SMS (‘Short Message Service’) texting, the form of texting we all know and love, became more accessible and cost-friendly, its popularity exploded. Since then, we’ve used many different ways to communicate. Email may not be the most popular way to communicate these days, though it’s of course common in the business world. Texting is obviously still popular, but there are far more options. Over the years, more and more messaging options have come onto the scene. Since there are so many different apps to choose from, it might seem difficult to decide which one you actually want to stick with. If you’re not sure which one you want to use, or if you’re not sure what people are talking about when they say ‘kik,’ this article might just help you figure out which app you’ll enjoy the most—or if you even want to use a messaging app.

What are the pros?

There are a lot of reasons to download a messaging app. Here are just a few reasons to consider:

  • Messaging apps can have special features that are better than typical SMS text platforms
  • Many messaging apps also include video chat and calling, which can streamline your communication
  • Most apps have fun things like extra (or different) emojis and stickers
  • You don’t have to exchange phone numbers with someone to keep in contact
  • You can feel freer to casually message people, because you know they chose to connect with you

What are the cons?

Here are a few reasons you might not want to go with an app:

  • Downloading another app takes up more space on your device
  • Your contacts might all be using different apps, because there are so many apps to choose from
  • Apps might glitch or start crashing, while the typical SMS text platform is generally fairly steady
  • Messaging apps use some of your data, while standard SMS texts don’t (as long as you have SMS texting in your phone plan)

What should you consider?

If you weigh the pros and cons and want to use a messaging app, or if you have one now but aren’t sure if it’s the right one for you, here are a few questions you could ask:

What purpose do you have?

Do you want a messaging app for business? School? Family? Friends? Some mix of these groups? Your purpose might change which app you go with. If you want a messaging app to keep up with co-workers and communicate in the workplace, you might need less bells and whistles, and it might need to be more practical (unless you have a really cool workplace). If you’re looking for an app so you can work with your classmates, you’ll probably need an app that lets you clearly define groups. If you just want a messaging app for your friends and family, you’ll likely want more of the fun features that can keep you all entertained and is pretty informal.

Is it easy to use?

When you’re choosing a messaging app, you should definitely look for one that you can easily use. Depending on your experience with smartphones, different apps, and messaging in general, you might need something different from everyone else. You’ll want to make sure it’s intuitive (you don’t have to go searching all over the place to find basic features). You can also consider whether it’s similar to other things you’ve used in the past.

What kind of messages do you want to be able to send?

If you want to just send text-based messages, most of the following apps will work great for that. If you want to focus on communicating through photos, other apps will do the job better. If you want video capabilities, many apps offer this option, but some are better than others. Make sure to see whether your app offers all the kinds of messaging you want to use.

Is the app safe and secure?

Most of the chat apps you’ve heard about are considered safe, but be careful not to add a random app that just looks cool without looking into it first. Scam apps could steal your data or do worse. Also, some apps are built entirely on the premise of being more secure than SMS texting and other apps out there. One app, called Signal, is based entirely on this idea. It’s slightly different from other messaging apps, though, in that you still send texts to peoples’ phone numbers. If you want to be extra careful with your messages, keep in mind that some apps offer more protection than others, though they might not work the same way as the typical messaging app.

Is it convenient?

Some messaging apps might be more convenient for you than others. If space is an issue, some take up less space, so take that into consideration. Also, some apps are connected with other social media platforms you might already be on, so that can be an added layer of convenience.

What are your options?

Here are just 7 of the messaging apps you might want to choose from. There are many, many more out there, so consider asking around to learn what your friends and family prefer. These are just some of the apps that are widely discussed and used!

Facebook Messenger
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
Facebook Messenger is, obviously, Facebook’s connected messaging app. Messenger is separate from the Facebook app, so you do have to download another additional app to use it. Messenger has a lot of different options, like making group messages with fun group names, sending photos with face filters and other decorations, and using Facebook’s stickers. Facebook Messenger is interesting because there are so many things you can do with it. One thing people may not be as aware of is the ability to play games through the app, like Word Streak with Friends. There are other games, too, built into the Messenger app. It seems like you can do just about everything with the app, even send money and share your location. You and most of your connections are probably on Facebook already, so you’ll know you can contact just about everyone here. If you want to send just about any kind of message and you have Facebook, try this app out. Facebook Messenger is free to download—check out their website to get started!

GroupMe
Offers texts, photos, and videos
GroupMe lets you connect with groups of people to keep in touch for whatever purpose. It’s certainly popular in the college world and in the workplace. You can create as many different groups as you want. It has its own set of emojis, which are pretty cute and keep things a little interesting. GroupMe has a nice gallery view, so if you’re in a group that sends a lot of media, it’s easy to flip through what’s been sent. It also easily lets you send your location, quickly inviting group members to join you where you are. GroupMe really relies on its usefulness in communicating with groups, particularly if you don’t want to share your number (though users without the app can still receive GroupMe messages, which is convenient). If you want to be able to message groups easily (like for a group project or work event), this is a great app for it. GroupMe is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Instagram Direct
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Instagram Direct is Instagram’s answer to a messaging service. Instead of just posting your Instas and liking your friends’ photos, you can also message people directly through the app. Like Snapchat, your photos and videos will automatically disappear after a while (though not all of your messages disappear—just your photos and videos). You can send all sorts of media through Instagram Direct. Also similar to Snapchat, you can add face filters to your photos, and you can add cool effects to your videos. Boomerang is an especially popular video feature; you can make a short video clip loop back and forth. If you already have Instagram, you already have Instagram Direct, which makes it more convenient than some other messaging apps might seem. Of course, if you want to connect with people who aren’t on Instagram, this isn’t the app for you. If most of your friends and family are connected with you on Insta, though, this app might be just perfect. Instagram is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Kik
Offers texts, photos, and videos (including video calling)
Kik is a pretty popular messaging app that people often use if they don’t yet feel comfortable giving their phone number to someone (though this isn’t its only use, of course). You can’t make regular voice calls, but you can do pretty much everything else, so it’s a good option no matter what kind of messages you’d like to send. You can send all sorts of GIFs and stickers, and you can create group chats. Kik also has a pretty nice, clean interface, so it’s not really confusing. Kik also has some interesting special features. For one thing, you can interact with Kik bots to kill time if you’re not sure who to talk to. Also, you have a Kik code that others can scan in order to connect with you, which is convenient. Quite a few people are on Kik, so it might be a good option for you. Kik is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Snapchat
Offers texts, photos, and videos
Snapchat is the popular photo- and video-sharing app that makes your messages impermanent. Messages disappear after a short amount of time, and even the photos and videos in your personal story disappear after a short while. Snapchat centers specifically around photos and videos, though you can, of course, send text-based messages. You can use Snapchat filters to do things like weirdly distort your face and voice, give yourself cat ears, or put someone else’s face on your own. You can take short videos with these filters, too, and you can do other cool effects. You can also easily add text on top of your photos, communicating through your photos. If you want to message primarily through photos and videos, this is the app for you. Snapchat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WeChat
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WeChat is a messaging app that offers all the kinds of things you might expect. It lets you message in all kinds of different ways, but WeChat also has an interesting feel to it. The main page is very basic, sort of like your typical SMS chat setup, but once you’re in a chat, it can get as complicated as you’d like it to, with voice messages, the ability to match your step count with your friends (if you each have it enabled), group chats, and interestingly, broadcasted messages that go to numerous people but don’t share who all the people are. WeChat is also a nice choice if you have friends in China (as I’ve recently learned from experience). Some messaging apps are blocked in China, but WeChat is still available there. It also has a very strange bunch of animated stickers you can download, which keeps it very interesting. If you’re looking for an app that is slightly different from the rest, this one will do the trick. WeChat is free to download—check out their website to get started!

WhatsApp
Offers texts, photos, videos (including video calling), and voice calling
WhatsApp is a hugely popular messaging app that has a lot of great features. You can send all different types of messages, you can create groups, and you can easily access it everywhere, including on your computer. It also has its own cute versions of the emojis you’re used to. The app is pretty clear and easy to use; it’s not really bulky or confusing at all. Honestly, it’s really a simple and straightforward way to message people. WhatsApp is an alluring choice, partly because it has so many nice features and partly because so many other people are already on it. It’s also nice because it’s easy to send files through the app. You can do pretty much all the things you’d expect with it. If you want a messaging app that a lot of people are on and that does all of the basics, this app might be your best option. WhatsApp is free to download—check out their website to get started!

Remembering AOL Instant Messenger

Remembering AOL Instant Messenger

Recently it was announced that AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) would be shutting down in December of this year. This news has taken the internet by storm. AIM was huge in the 90s and part of the 2000s, and many people online now were frequent users of the popular chat program. Even though it’s been largely abandoned by most of us for years, replaced with more modern chat apps, many people (myself included) feel a bit sad at the idea of AIM ending forever. Just for fun, let’s take a look back and remember some of the things you might have encountered if you used AIM when you were young (or at least younger).

Screen Names

Oh, AIM screen names. Screen names back in the day were a lot of fun at the time, though they might seem a little embarrassing now. I’m not sure where all the x’s and numbers came from—maybe necessity, since so many usernames were taken—but they kept things interesting (and harder to read). You might have seen screen names with two x’s at the beginning and end (xxEMOGIRLxx, for example), or 0’s instead of o’s, or mIxEd Up CaPiTaLiZaTiOn, or even better, all three at once (xXeM0gIrLxX?). I don’t know about you, but I found it a little difficult sometimes to tell who had signed on since the screen names were such fun, jumbled messes.

Buddy Icons

Buddy icons were a fun way to further personalize our profiles. The tiny, often-pixelated pictures were changed often on my friends’ profiles (and I think I changed mine about once a week). It was particularly fun to find animated icons. (Animated icons! They moved! Who knew pictures could do that.)

SmarterChild

I know I’m not the only one who was good friends with SmarterChild. In case you’ve forgotten your BFF, SmarterChild was a ‘bot that could automatically reply to your messages. You could ask questions, play games, get the weather, find movie times, and just chit chat. I remember being amazed and impressed at the way SmarterChild could actually talk to me. With “people” like Siri and Alexa available today, SmarterChild can seem really outdated in hindsight. But the bot was pretty groundbreaking at the time and was great fun to hang out with when no one else was online at 4am.

Extensive Profiles

If you used AIM a lot back in its earlier days, you might have had a crazy profile like my friends and I all did. We all liked to put our basic information (a/s/l), stuff we liked, who our friends were, etc. And for some reason, we all felt like we couldn’t make our profiles long enough, so we started using the SubProfile website. We could add a link to our profile that led to our SubProfile with even more information. It seemed like we spent as much time building our SubProfiles as we did actually talking to each other.

Ridiculous Away Messages

It’s possible that our away messages were sillier than our profiles. Typically, away messages added by young people on AIM didn’t give any indication about where the person was or what they were doing. They were almost never useful or informative, it seemed. Instead we would focus on putting bright background colors with clashing (sometimes unreadable) text, lyrics from songs that we thought were deep, and quotes from our friends (for some reason a lot of us thought it made us look cooler). Oh, and you might have had a lot of fun adding the code into your away message that would display the screen name of whoever was reading it, which made it seem like the message was personalized to them.

Friendships

However silly it may have been sometimes, AIM gave a lot of people some good memories of chatting with their friends. Even if you didn’t really get involved with the crazy stuff mentioned above, you probably had a good time catching up with friends, some of whom you might not have ever met in person. Even though we have plenty of chat apps we can use today, we’ll miss you, AIM.

(Featured image: Business Insider)