Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Skype, AIM, the list of messaging platforms you probably use includes at least a few of those. Message service imo does more than let you text for free from all of those services: It streamlines group messaging, photo sharing and voice messaging into one application.
The app allows you to connect to 11 different messaging platforms in one space, and its founders have plans to further expand the service into bigger social spheres.
Brothers Georges and Ralph Harik left jobs at Silicon Valley’s top tech companies to launch the free messaging service five years ago. Georges was one of Google’s first employees, and Ralph previously worked at Oracle. Both have advanced degrees in computer science and joined together to launch their own communication company shortly before the release of the first iPhone in 2007.
Initially a web platform, imo allows users to link multiple accounts – including Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Skype and others — under a single sign-on, keeping messages all in one place.
“Our goal was fast and easy communication,” Ralph said. “Remember having conversations on your desktop at home, but then go to a friend’s house and being unable to look up your chat history and find that phone number you desperately wanted? Our goal was to make chats widely available and work across different browsers and machines.”
Keeping imo open on a phone or desktop means only one app is needed to communicate with friends across platforms – something that seems to be more useful on mobile devices or tablets, as leaving Gmail open on a computer means messages will be pushed to both devices at the same time.
Imo also incorporates speech-to-text conversion (if part of the phone’s software), though you need to speak slowly and enunciate. You can leave brief voice messages for friends through the app. “Sometimes, you just want to hear the person’s voice so you can pick up things like tone: Are they angry or did they just hit all caps by accident?” Ralph says.
In August, imo.im announced free calling for iOS users over data plans, a feature that has been available on Android phones since February. The app is also compatible with iOS 6, and the speed of phone calls over the LTE network is incredible – users typically save about eight seconds.
Some of the coolest features of the app include group chat within which a photo album is created and filled with all photos shared, similar to a smartphone’s native photo app. It’s more convenient than scrolling through numerous messages to locate one image. The Harik brothers are equally excited about a social discovery feature currently available on the web and coming soon to mobile. The feature allows users to connect with others based on similar interests and geographic location.
“It’s a Twitter-like system where you don’t have to explicitly follow people,” Georges says.
Imo currently boasts approximately 700,000 daily users, and 50 million messages are sent per day. Users can upgrade to a premium version that offers some small perks.
Kate Abbott is a news intern based in Mashable’s San Francisco office. She’s a current Stanford Graduate Journalism student.