We are either asleep or online

Moving towards a very connected life on the internet

Not so long ago mobile phones hadn't been possible for every person around. Just a couple of decades ago, people scheduled their phone calls and waited at a neighbor’s house to talk on the land line. I've had such an experience myself.

Mobiles are no more a luxury. Almost every person on the world right now is accessible via a phone call either on mobile or through other means of communication.

Same is the case with internet. During the times of Personal Computers we were either online or offline. Internet slang like AFK (away from keyboard) were top among the status messages one left on the IM (instant messaging) apps like yahoo messenger or meebo.

With internet into all our gadgets we are never away from keyboard. We are always online as long as we are awake. With that came numerous mobile apps that keep us engaged and reachable anywhere anytime. So are we changing our behavior of being online too?

Apps which believe you are either online or asleep

Trend setting apps which are trying to change the behavior of the users and redefining what being online means. The internet we know now and the one our kids know is going to be different.

Sleep moment in Path


Path has sleep as one of its five key moment sharing types.

  • On the surface this feature serves as “Do Not Disturb” notification.
  • Lets say you share on Path that you are sleeping, it compels the user to come back to it and undo the setting, making it the first app you would open right after switching off the alarm.


The new Google+ Hangouts unifies chats, audio calls, and video meetings across all of your users’ devices.

You just Sign in. There is no option like online, busy or setting custom status. You do not have an invisible mode in it yet and I doubt if they will give it. It does have a novel feature called Snooze Notifications which is quite never seen before anywhere.

Snoozing notifications

Friends who invite you to any hangout chat, voice or video will not know that you have snoozed notifications. There won’t be a green bar below your profile picture which means people will think you are not available at the moment. Sounds a lot like being invisible.

A closer look at the snooze timings hint at what was the thought behind Snooze Notifications. It is mostly telling us to excuse ourselves for a short while, and do come back to continue the conversation. It will compel you to get right back to it after you are done being busy with real world.

We are going to get a maximum of 72 hours of snooze time and then we are pushed back online to get all our notifications. The design decision of timings would have been crucial decision. I’d like to think the following were the reasons. Please add notes of what you might think too.

  • 1-2 hours : Short durations such as meetings, lectures or finishing some activity where you prefer not to be disturbed. After which google wants to put you back online instead of you manually doing it.
  • 4-8 hours: Sleeping?
  • 24 — 72 hours : Weekend or you may be on a small trip to paradise where you don’t want to get disturbed.

Hangouts on mobile vs desktop

On a desktop there are only 3 variants of intervals 1 hour, 8 hours and 48 hours which clearly indicates the pattern of usage of PC’s.

  • 1 hour break from being online to attend a meeting or complete some work.
  • 8 hours break for the sleep time or you may be in office and do not want the notifications to come up. But you do not really want to miss out on seeing them.
  • 48 hours for the weekend


FB messenger is a whole new experience. It reminds me of the good old Buzz feature of Yahoo messenger.

Buzz Alert: Get your friend’s attention with a click of the Buzz button.

No matter what you are up to. It just puts the message on your screen. Forces you to even see the message’s few characters building the anticipation to make you open the message.

Facebook is for friends and acquaintances, so are the messages. Facebook’s mission right now is also “share and make the world more open and connected.” To facilitate this the rightful design of Chat Heads. But Facebook ought to build a way to stop getting chat heads for at least a small amount of time, else its just going to cause frustration.

Bottom line

The design of the applications is broadly based on the following philosophies

  • ‘Hook” is what social networks need. That is what keeps users coming back to your application. Keep in mind that world is not going to revolve around your application. Make sure your app fits in people’s lifestyle.
  • Facebook and Hangouts (google) have understood people from a long time and improved their apps based on how people used them. The idea of going to and fro from real world to an online world has been simplified by their understanding of how we use internet.

Where will this take us? What’s communication over internet going to be like in the future? What we saw till now depend on how we used internet, but its changing and evolving at a much faster pace.

Please leave your thoughts.

Thanks Praneet Koppula and Sandeep Medermetla for your inputs on the article.