Why is the Most Important Messaging Feature So Rare?

Why is the Most Important Messaging Feature So Rare?

Mike Tyson
Apr 4, 2011

If you were to say you've never been there, you're either lying or just started using the internet. To one degree or another, we've all experienced that immediate sinking feeling in your chest when you accidentally send an email, text, or chat message and you know there is nothing you can do about it. Even big-league sports writers have fallen prey. Sometimes the message could be as innocent as a "hi" to your mom but can go all the way up the humiliating scale to a colorfully explicity email accidentally sent to the boss. So why is it that all messaging services haven't implemented a means of preventing such a catastrophe? Well, two have (that we know of) and we're hoping others will soon follow suit.

Unfortunately, the Neuralyzer (a device used to erase people's short-term memory in the movie Men in Black) does not yet exist which means retracting statements you've said face-to-face with is still impossible. Not so in virtual life! In fact, this seems like such a huge benefit to digital communication we're not sure why messaging services have been so slow to implement it.

Now, we're not a developer by any stretch of the imagination be we think the functionality could be quite simple. Rather than instantaneously send the message, (whether they're emails, texts, or chat) it should be held in a queue for a pre-defined length of time customizable by the user. Once a message is sent to the queue, a notification or an indication comes up allowing the user to edit/delete the message before it passes through the queue and onto its destination. Are we crazy or does this seem fairly simple?

But lets move onto the services that already have this functionality in place. Of course the first one is Google who is almost always on the forefront of online communication. Their feature works with Gmail accounts (but no Gchat, whats up with that?) and is called Undo Send. You can find it under Settings/Labs when you're in your Gmail account. What Undo Send allows you to do is to recall the email that is currently pending transmission for up to 5 seconds after you hit the "send" button. Although that seems like a fairly short amount of time, you'd be surprised how quickly you can spot a typo immediately after sending. We've used it ourselves and haven't had an issue with its length (although an option to customize the duration would be beneficial).

The second service to provide this feature is Skype. Upon sending a message, you're given an hour to either edit the message or remove it. Of course, the recipient can see the message as it is sent immediately but if they are away from the computer or you accidentally send it when you were never talking to them in the first place, this could be very helpful. The only drawback, however, is that a notification is posted to the chat window that simply states there was a message that has now been removed.

We hope in the future we see this become more of the standard as messaging services feel the need to comply. There seems to be a huge need for this feature in al forms of digital communication and we wouldn't be surprised if its implementation is not far off into the horizon.

(Flickr member pjguyton2002 licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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