Wavelength is a new app that tries to make group chats suck less

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There are billions of people using WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage or even Instagram for group chats. These platforms are ideally designed for “face-to-face conversations” – more specifically one-on-one chats. A new app called Wavelength aims to change that narrative by putting group chat at the forefront.

The app was built by the makers of Telepath, a social network that debuted in 2020. But it never really took off because it was discontinued last year.

At its core, Wavelength — currently available to everyone on iOS and Mac — aims to solve the mess of traditional groups by creating threads for different conversations. In a typical WhatsApp or Telegram group, the chat is one-dimensional. All participants send messages to one giant river. So that people can talk about sports, politics and movies at the same time. It is up to the user to find out the context for each of these topics and which message belongs to which topic.

That’s why Wavelength puts the emphasis on wires. When you first start a group in the app, you also start the first thread when you type a message, even if the group only consists of two people. After that, other users can reply to that thread or create a new thread.

By default, after signing up you’ll see “groups” with contacts already using the app (these are auto-generated one-to-one groups) and a GPT 3.5 powered bot – more on that later. You can join a group using a public link or a friend can add you to a group.

Image Credits: Wavelength

Users can easily get started by downloading the app and signing up with a phone number. But unless you already have some people using the app or have invites to certain groups, it can be hard to get started. There is no clear mechanism for group discoveries. You may need to search for groups on Twitter or Reddit, or ask people you know to invite you or join you on the platform.

The lists of groups and conversations look like an email inbox with a blue dot next to a group or thread when there’s a new message. When you enter a group, you see a preview of the latest message in each thread (just like an email inbox). This design philosophy was suggested by John Gruber, who is now a consultant to the company behind the app. Used prior to this wavelength to show sample maps for threads.

The story behind Wavelength

Wavelength’s core team—CEO Richard Henry, CTO Riley Patterson, and Chairman Marc Bodnick—talked to me in a group chat and explained how they came up with the idea to build the app. They said Telepath wasn’t growing and the world was moving to private chats. So they shut down the social app in August 2022 and started working on Wavelength.

A thread in Wavelength chat. Image Credits: Wavelength

“I was already thinking about the idea of ​​threaded private chat when we first started working on Telepath. When it was just Marc and I using the very first Telepath prototype, we used it for all sorts of conversations – naming the product, hiring our first engineer, chatting over dinner, etc. I remember loving this, it’s actually a private thread messaging app,” said Henry.

“We considered building only private groups into Telepath as a feature, but we strongly believed that private chat needs strong end-to-end encryption, with messages stored on the device rather than in the cloud. So Wavelength had to be a totally new product.”

The team said that in today’s group chat you can only talk about one thing at a time. It noted that people often mute group chats simply because they don’t want to be notified of every conversation. But you might be missing out on interesting conversations because you’re muting all or nothing. Developers said using threads was the obvious solution.

The startup released the closed beta of the product last summer and opened it to a wider audience in March.


For Wavelength, privacy is also an important feature. The app supports end-to-end double ratchet encryption for enhanced security. Users are required to sign into the app with a phone number, but the app doesn’t share it with anyone. Even if you join a group, you will only see other members’ names and not their contact information.

Wavelength has end-to-end encryption for all chats. Image Credits: Wavelength

When it comes to other apps that enable group chats, Telegram lets you hide your phone number and only show your name or username. However, it is important to remember that Telegram does not have end-to-end encryption for group chats.

Wavelength has also worked out the encryption of historical messages. When a new member joins the group, the app re-encrypts the recent message history and securely shares it so they can catch up. This is in contrast to WhatsApp, where you only see messages after you have joined a group.

Integrate AI

One of the things that stands out in Wavelength is its integration with a GPT-3.5 powered bot. You can talk to the bot about various things. But you can also call the bot to ask a question within a group conversation.

This is useful in a number of ways. There is the novelty factor of AI chatbots. With this feature, you don’t need to download a separate app or create an account on OpenAI to try out an AI-powered bot. Moreover, an AI bot can be useful in another way in a group with your friends. For example, you can ask for suggestions, such as recipes for dinner or a movie to watch on the weekend.

Wavelength AI

Image Credits: Wavelength

The Wavelength team said they didn’t originally plan to create a friends and AI app. But given the thread system in the app, AI can be a perfect companion. Mind you, AI can’t summarize the entire conversation for you, as it only knows about the messages it has posted. This is due to the app’s privacy-focused design, as Wavelength doesn’t share your conversation with OpenAI – the company behind GPT.

While the developers have found a unique way to handle group messaging, there are some challenges for the developers. As we mentioned above, group discovery is a huge point of friction right now. Your friends probably won’t drop WhatsApp or iMessage and switch to Wavelength. Moreover, a group app is only useful if your entire group of friends uses the app.

While the app is designed for closed, invite-only groups, Wavelength can also facilitate semi-open large groups. The Wavelength team cited the group of Dithering podcast subscribers with thousands of members as an example: Dithering is a Gruber and Ben Thompson show. Currently there is a limit of 10,000 members for groups. Although Telegram offers 200,000 group chats with members, Wavelength limits are still significant.

There is also no thread search, which sometimes makes it difficult to search for older threads if several new threads have been created. That function can also be used to search for an existing thread on the same topic.

Philosophically, Wavelength lies between Twitter, Reddit, WhatsApp, Telegram, Discord and a good old discussion forum – all of which try to facilitate a conversation for a community or an interest group. It allows a group to chat with each other and split the conversation into threads.

In comparison, WhatsApp and Telegram have a linear chat mechanism, although Telegram allows commenting/threading on a message. A Discord server usually has channels for different topics or topics, but it’s a rigid structure that doesn’t change often. By default, Twitter users only get one feed and can create additional lists, but they are rarely shared. Reddit has a structured feed of posts for each subreddit with a conversation thread under each post.

“I’m crazy about slack threads – the conversation usually starts in the channel, then someone spins it into a thread, and then you’ve lost the first part of the conversation. So we really wanted to build intuitive threading, where you can’t mess it up , said Henry.

The wavelength is in the early stages of its life. It has no feature parity with the likes of WhatsApp or Telegram. For example, it doesn’t support comments, GIFs, or group calls. But the team is working to bring some of those things. At this time, there can be only one admin per group, which is fine for a group with a limited number of members, but can be restrictive for larger groups.

The company is currently working on a few things: One of them is moderator tools such as multi-admin for groups, thread pinning, and the ability to define group rules. Plus, an Android version is in the works, as the team said multiple people want to create groups with their friends, regardless of what device they’re using.

The Wavelength team added that it also has a roadmap of numerous AI features, but did not provide details.

In terms of business model, the company said it wants to keep Wavelength free for individual users. “We will never run ads — besides being terrible for privacy, they don’t work well in a messaging app anyway,” he said. To monetize, Wavelength plans to offer a pro version with more features, along with a Wavelength for organizations that will be an alternative to something like Slack. But the team admits there’s a long way to go before they can compete with Salesforce’s tool.

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