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Once upon a time, there was an application called Hello. In short, this program was an instant messenger client, much like MSN Messenger or ICQ, but with one big central feature – it was designed for picture sharing.

hello

The program was simple, from a user stand-point. You started it, logged in, and the program fetched your info and your buddy list from their central servers. Once in, you saw a list of buddies that were online. Doudle-click one, and you’re chatting with him/her/it/whatever.

The image above shows what the chat looks like. In the picture, though, no one has said anything; the chat part is the right-most frame, and the only thing in the chat is “blabla is sending 12 Pictures”. Anything written in the Message frame below will then show up in that frame, in order of occurrance.

The sweet thing with this application was that it had a simple drag-and-drop interface for sending images. Just drag them into the application, and they were added to the pool of images currently being shared between you and your buddy. Isolated, no “share this with friends”, no “select a folder”, no “publish this on the web so that all the wrong people can see”, no “share this with family and strangers” – but simply put, total control of what you wanted to display. The images added by both you and your friend were shown as thumbnails below a large version of the image you were currently watching. Easily manouverable, and you could even choose to see what your friend is viewing. Another feature was that whenever anyone wrote something in the chat, a miniature was shown in the chat message showing the image you or your friend was viewing at the time of that message, making it easy to keep track of what you were talking about or commenting on.

Images were saved to a specified folder automatically, and you could also save them manually… and this was probably the only bad part, in my opinion – it wasn’t really consistent. It also saved a cache of all images a bit hidden away, which I personally dislike. Software should stop spreading out like a disease over your computer and leave traces of everything everywhere – they should work under your control.

One last thing that I loved with Hello was that transfers and chat were all encrypted. That is important for me, especially in days of mass surveillance, mass registration of actions and behaviour, not to mention for the sake of speed.

It was simple, and exposed the most basic features in a clean way for the user. No enveloping badly designed things in cotton like many dumbed-down applications of today in their pursuit of “user friendlyness“, but simply offered its core features without portraying the user as stupid. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of computers could use the application without large popup balloons telling them what to do, and “wizards” doing things that they probably didn’t want to do.

However, Google purchased the rights for Hello from Picasa, and a while after they closed it down. No apparent reason really, but some think it had to do with it competing with a similar product also owned by the same company. A product that lets you fuzzily share images with your friends, that scans your computer for you for images, and does things a bit more automatically. Fuzzy, automatic, “user friendly” so to speak, and with less control.

And you want control.

Because, quite frankly, either if you are discussing art design on a professional level or if you are trading personal porn with a friend, you really want full and complete control of who sees what, and where things end up on your computer as well, as you sometimes don’t want others in your family to see photos of what you and your special buddies or girlfriend or whatever did last weekend…

I know, there are plugins and stuff for various chat applications that allow for the same functionality, more or less. But it’s far from easy most of the time, and it’s quite a lot easier to just tell someone to “hey, get Hello and add me as a friend and I’ll show you” instead of saying “hey, get this software, then create an account there, and then download this plugin, and then set up encryption like this, then share a folder like this, then add me like this“…

What really grind my gears should be apparent by now – I hate that Hello was discontinued, but mostly I hate that there are still no simple and similar alternatives!

So, with all this explained, I send out this request to the world of random programmers:

An application much like Hello, that has a buddy list or similar, that has no central server to log into but is independent. It should have a 1-on-1 chat capability, but also the ability for more to be invited to the chat session (mutually decided by all involved). There should be encryption, activated per default, with settings so that you can modify it as you wish. Proxy settings, firewall settings, most things that you expect a good internet application to have. There should be drag-and-drop, and an interface not far from Hello’s. There should be settings for where images are saved, if you want to use a disk-cache or not, where that should reside, and maybe even a setting to clean such cache once not in use through algorithms that make retrieval of that information impossible. Perhaps add support for text files, video files, and audio.

Maybe even add support for third-party plug-ins if one would like to extend its functionality, even though most commonly used things should be included in the main application.

I mean, all these things do exist, but sadly not in the same applicaton…

Keywords:

Easy to use and control, but not dumbed down a la Skype 4
Safe and encrypted, and leaving minimal traces on your local machine
To the point, as an image/media trading/discussing chat application
Stand-alone, one simple friendly download, no fuzz
NOT FUCKING WEB-BASED!
Free, of course

Open source and portable, while not necessary, would naturally be welcome

Honestly – if someone were to take on this task, and really resist the urge of making it a derailing feature-fest (and then resist the urge of making wizards as a means to put spackle on that derailed feature-fest) then I assure you that a lot of people will be very happy with you. You would be a hero to many, who would probably want to give you cake. Hello was as close to a perfect application as you could come, and a lot of people were very upset when Google announced its death.

Soon after Hello closed, someone started a project called “Hello (again)” that was supposed to be an alternative, but it seems to have died quickly after that announcement.

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