Janus Friis, co-founder of the now ubiquitous video chat program Skype, has turned his attention to a new communication platform. It’s called Wire, and is reported to combine the features of current leaders like WhatsApp, WeChat and Skype – although so far it has no video functionality.
People weren’t exactly crying out for another messaging app, so what makes Wire special? According to CEO Jonathan Christensen, it is not one single thing: “There are hundreds of features in the product, and a lot of refinement from being in this space for many years, and knowing where the pain points are… We want to solve all those little, nagging problems that have been persistent for years and years in digital communications.” As another former member of the Skype team, Christensen knows his stuff; he held the role of VP in Emerging Technologies until 2012.
Skype was launched in 2003, and both Friis and Christensen are aware of just how much smartphones have transformed the landscape in the years since. “What attracted me to Wire is that it is something truly new,” Friis told The Guardian. “This is not just an app… This is not just attacking one feature trying to do something marginally better. What the team has done is a complete from-the-ground-up re-imagination of what communication should be. I wouldn’t have been interested if this was just another feature.”
One timely concern which Wire clearly addresses is security; the app utilises encryption on all voice calls, messages, and media. “People care about privacy, and we care about privacy,” says Christensen. “I use the app to talk to my wife, and to my business partners. I want my communications to be safe… Unlike a lot of small start-ups, we have made a significant investment and are thoughtful about security. We have a full-time security expert working with us, and we hire outside firms to audit who can see the data and under what circumstances.”
Wire has been designed for compatibility across Apple and Android devices, with a PC-ready already version in the works. The audio quality of voice calls has been touted as a selling point, as has the ability to drag images, YouTube videos and SoundCloud feeds into group and one-to-one conversations. There is also a social graph function which collates the user’s weekly chats and organises their contact list by regularity of contact.
“There are bugs and kinks of course, but for an app that just launched, Wire is very good,” says Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar. “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.”