& iChat video conferences

by post_author’s landing page is vague regarding the actual function of the service. It describes itself as a way to make decisions with the help of friends, making a grand promise with little evidence to demonstrate ability. It isn’t even clear whether this is a mobile app or a web service. Large and brightly colored on the page, however, is a button: “Claim You Username.” A user can hold their username by providing an email and a mobile phone number. The site then texts the user and gives them a link, valid for a few minutes, that allows them to confirm their username. Once they have done so, the site displays a user number (similar to Twitter), and allows them to celebrate their claim through social networks. Seesaw has, perhaps artificially, created a precious commodity—in reality, it is not necessary to have unique usernames visible to users. It also provides a visible way to feel more “on the bleeding edge” than other, slower users with higher user numbers, and a way to broadcast this trait. At the same time, it takes advantage of a common frustration: The inability to identify oneself by one’s desired name. Services like Twitter or Xbox Live are so popular that at this point it is unlikely that one’s first pick of username is available. It also adds legitimacy to the process by forcing users to confirm through a mobile phone. For all we know, Seesaw is a way for spammers to acquire active mobile phone numbers, but the fear of missing out is strong enough to compel one to sign up.

FaceTime and its predecessor, iChat Video Conferences

Common knowledge amongst the creators of products and apps teaches that the features that will bring buyers and the features that people will actually use are frequently different. I believe few people use FaceTime over more robust alternatives such as Skype; FaceTime is only usable on Apple products. This was even more the case for iChat Video Conferences, which could only be used to communicate between Apple desktops and laptops—a small portion of the market back when the feature was developed. Despite the lack of utility, the two features figured prominently in Apple’s advertisements during their respective eras. My belief is that this disproportionate coverage is due to the human element. Compared to app screens or pictures of wallpapers, pictures of people—even strangers—are more relatable, giving the products friendliness and charm. It does not hurt that the people are universally beautiful and appealing. I would venture so far as to speculate that the sole reason the iChat video conference feature was implemented in the first place was to create a feature, and an advertising image, that people desire.

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