Tech Talk: Ping - The Smartphone App That Communicates Without Words IBTimes UK

Language is a living, breathing thing. It doesn't stand still for a moment and no matter how much we may complain about change, there's no escaping evolution. Technology has hit the fast-forward button in recent years, unleashing a torrent of new, shorter words and acronyms into our lexicon - and now one internet pioneer things we can do away with words, and even pictures, entirely.

Muslim Shortanov is the owner of app development company Playfon and could rightly be described as a founding father of Russia's presence on the internet. His latest venture is a mobile application called Ping. Available for iOS and Android from 6 November, Ping lets its users do nothing more than send a beep to each other - just as computer servers send pings to say when they are online and available.

A pager for the 21st century

"Ping is a wordless communication app," Shortanov explains, "like an old style pager. A way to stay in touch with your friends or colleagues with just the tap of a button. It's simple and that's why we believe people will accept it."

But communicating with a single beep isn't particularly helpful to anyone, so there needs to be an understanding between Ping users of why one might be pinging the other. Say you're going to a friend's house, or a work meeting; you can Ping the other person to let them know when you have set off, or when you have arrived. Once the context is understood, each use of Ping makes sense.

Shortanov explains how he uses Ping to tell his team of developers when he is online and has started work for the day. His colleagues then reply with a ping to say they're also at work. If one ping isn't replied to then Shortanov can quickly see a colleague isn't working and proceed to investigate why.

Ping App

Although using Ping on a smartphone with a keyboard may seem strange, the expanding wearables market presents itself as the ideal proving ground for apps like Ping, where a tap of a smartwatch could tell your friends or colleagues that you are working, or ready to talk.

Shortanov says his team is developing versions of Ping for a number of wearables, including the Samsung Gear range and the Apple Watch, which is due to go on sale early next year.

Of course, we can use a whole host of other messaging apps to have the same conversation, but for people - like developers - who often work intensely at a computer for hours at a time, the simplicity of sending a ping instead of starting a conversation to say 'I'm working now' could be attractive.

The importance of a ping can be expressed by sending up to ten at once. These appear as a series of green lights next to the contact's name, so if there's an emergency (although, presumably, not one important enough to make a phone call) ten pings can be sent.

Efficient communication

Yo is another communication app which recently shot to fame due to its simplicity, as users can do little more than send the message "yo" to each other. But Shortanov things this is too complicated...

"Ping is a pure pager. We have no words at all. I think Yo is a little bit more complicated...we like to stay simple, just a binary pager."

Before looking to monetise Ping, Shortanov says he and his team "need to prove that people accept this way to communicate. When millions of people accept it this is huge potential for monetisation."

Despite aiming for millions of users, Shortanov says he isn't trying to lure us away from other forms of messaging, and instead he hopes Ping will help them to be more organised and communicate more efficiently.

Mobile phones and social networks have caused language to develop and evolve more quickly than ever before, and while no one knows if we'll all be Ping-ing and Yo-ing each other in years to come, one thing is for sure - as the phones in our pockets continue to evolve, so too will the ways they allow us to communicate.