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While the internet for a long time had a number of good dedicated messenger programs, such as AIM, those were for various and stupid reasons replaced with ancillary message services attached to phone apps or social networking services.

What Mr Fish, G. esq. doesn’t take into account is that in those olden days of the internet, the dedicated programs1 for one-to-one or one-to-many text communications were almost completely synchronous.2 You had to log-in to the service in question to participate in near-real time communication.

Many things happened to make of those a thing of the past. One of them is that asynchronous services of all kinds started allowing asynchronous messages as part of their services.Forums had private messages, even the early social networks had them (hi5 I’m looking at you). Pair that with the rise of dedicated messaging programs like Whatsapp-sorry, I meant Blackberry Messenger-and the divide between “public-facing” and “private” communications on the internet becomes wider and wider.

While I’m very much against pinning down language to specifics, I can say that there’s at least another usage of this phrase (or similar ones): to indicate that a certain discourse that has been public will/must now go to a more private sphere either because tempers are running high, to avoid flooding the channel or something else.

...it probably reflects some uncertainty or anxiety with the question of whether the internet is a public or private, social or interpersonal space. Are internet profiles merely for interacting with someone’s social persona, or are they a way to form interpersonal relationships?

The line on that one is…blurry and getting blurrier by the day.

100 prisoners problem ⇐ Part of Brevity Quest 2020 (299 words) ⇒ July 13, 2020

  1. Now called “Apps”

  2. IRC, ICQ, AOL, chatrooms of all kinds, the original Messenger.