Text Messaging Is So 2014: Glide Brings Video Chat to Smartphones (And the Apple Watch)

Three ultra-Orthodox new immigrants missed seeing their loved ones on the other side of the planet, and a video messaging application was born.

Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv
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Screenshot from glide.me
Screenshot from glide.me
Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv

It’s not as if the world is suffering a shortage of mobile messaging and chat apps such as WhatsApp, which is popular in Israel and much of the rest of the world. The Israeli firm Glide wanted to go one further: video chat messaging.

Glide was founded in 2012 and in a process that was rather unconventional, too. The firm’s three founders, Ari Roisman, Jonathan Caras and Adam Korbl, emigrated to Israel (two from the United States and one from Australia). Far from family and friends, and in different time zones to boot, they found it difficult to communicate by video with their loved ones, or anyone else over there. Which gave rise to their idea for a video messaging app.

Also, all three are ultra-Orthodox.

Upon downloading the Glide app, users can send short video messages to friends at the press of a button. But who really that service on their smartphones?

Arie Offner, the head of strategic partnerships at Glide explains who: anybody who wants to be clearly understood. Text-based chat apps like WhatsApp have clear disadvantages, he says: text simply isn’t personal enough. It is hard to gauge for subtleties, nuances and sarcasm.

“We’ve all had embarrassing experiences over text messages that were not properly understood, because texting has limitations. That, by the way, is why emojis [pictograms expressing specific emotions and other images] were born. The ability to send a smiley--Egyptian hieroglyphic language-- revived only because text messages don’t allow people to sufficiently express themselves,” Offner says.

In witness of the need, there are whole social networks based entirely on visual expression, Instagram and Snapchat, for example, he says. “And if they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is probably worth a thousand more than a picture.”

The purpose of their live-video messaging is to optimize communications between people, and human beings communicate best face-to-face, he sums up.

If I want a video call, can’t I make a call on Skype? “There’s a reason video communication hasn’t captured 80% of the calls around the world and texting has, and the explanation lies in etiquette,” he says. “Only close friends will just pick up the phone to call me without finding out first if I am available.

“Most communications around the world over the past five to ten years has been based on the element of asynchronization. Email along with text messaging and WhatsApp are based on the principle that the other party doesn’t have to make themselves available right away and answer. I send when I want and you answer when it’s convenient for you.”

Glide makes video communication possible in real time – or you can answer at your convenience.

The Unsend option

Video messages on Glide are fast although video files are much heavier than text messages, Offner says, adding: “Our capacity to transmit messages from anywhere in the world to anywhere else quickly, with high video quality and also via cellular networks that are less good and with limited bandwidth, is the heart of the company from the technological standpoint, and we have submitted a patent request for it.”

To avoid taxing the smartphone memory, video clips are not saved on the sender’s end or on the recipient’s end. They exist only in the cloud. If a user reconsiders, he can do what’s called “unsend” and the video will simply disappear.

Glide has gotten a lot of publicity lately over one particular gadget that you may have heard about: the Apple Watch. Its app works there too. Offner: “We are working closely with Apple and Glide will be available on Apple Watch from Day 1. Our application is perfect for a world without a keyboard and it’s rather clear that this is the next form of communications -- lifting your arm, touching the watch screen once to see messages and answering messages on video.”

Although it’s operating in a crowded field, it has its fans. The company reports having 20 million users. “Last New Year’s Eve, between 2014 and 2015, our servers handled more than 1,000 video clips per second,” Offner says.

As of now, the company does not have a business model. None. Nonetheless, its investors seem to believe in it. In December the company reported raising $20 million from investors. It was the company’s second financing round, bringing the total raised to $28.5 million. The company has a staff of 60, with offices in New York; Palo Alto, California; and Jerusalem.

To some extent Israel is home to an instant messaging empire. The Israeli firm Viber was sold to Japan’s Rakuten for $900 million. The Israeli-American instant messaging company Tango has raised $390 million so far, while another competitor in the field is Rounds, which is also Israeli.

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