Max Weibach –
March 24, 2023 11am
A number of weeks in the past at MWC 2023, I had the chance to sit down down with Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice chairman of Platforms and Ecosystems at Google, to speak about RCS messaging. Whereas there wasn’t a lot in the way forward for what Google is planning with Google Messages and RCS because the protocol, I obtained a very good take a look at how RCS got here to be and the way Google sees it.
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For some background, RCS was launched by the GSMA in 2008 as a successor to SMS. The GMSA is the International System for Cellular Communications Affiliation, a gaggle of over 750 cell operators and over 400 firms within the cell ecosystem. The GSMA’s primary intention was for a contemporary communication protocol that will not work over voice networks, as a result of then and to some extent even now, SMS used the identical mobile channels as a cellphone name. It was and is extraordinarily outdated, inefficient and unsafe. That is why GSMA designed RCS, to exchange the outdated platform.
A number of years after the GSMA launched RCS (and whereas apps like WhatsApp took off), Lockheimer mentioned the GSMA approached Google about the usual on the MWC. Google, investigating RCS, realized that GSMA was proper, SMS was almost 20 years previous on the time and wanted to be modernized. This was earlier than iMessage was introduced, Apple understood the identical factor and determined to roll out iMessage as a response to the outdated protocol.
This was the start of RCS for Google and the Android crew, however as Lockheimer mentioned, it is a lengthy recreation, , that is positively one of many learnings that it’s important to stick with and transfer ahead. He defined that although the GSMA approached them to convey assist for RCS, the carriers had completely different concepts about how they wished to implement RCS.
In any case of that, 2015 got here and there was nonetheless no cross-carrier messaging. As a substitute, it was restricted solely by provider to provider, equivalent to Verizon-to-Verizon, messaging, and even particular gadgets utilizing particular apps, equivalent to Verizons Messages+. For instance, if you happen to had a Samsung cellphone from T-Cellular, there was no assure that it might work with T-Cellular as properly. You would wish particular telephones on particular firmware and there was no assure your folks would have entry to those. When you determined to get an unlocked cellphone slightly than by means of a provider, there was no method to entry RCS. Actually, RCS was ineffective.
The turning level for RCS was with Common Profile. The Common Profile was a set of primary RCS options that have been all supported equally by all carriers utilizing RCS. This included typing indicators, learn receipts, leaving group chats, lossless picture sharing, file switch, and extra. Common Profile meant that RCS would lastly go cross-carrier and considerably feature-rich! Positive, over time some carriers have rolled out the Common Profile to some LG and Samsung telephones through customized apps, however nonetheless, the Common Profile did not matter as a result of, once more, it was laborious to know if you happen to or your contacts would have entry to it, and unimaginable to entry it except you obtain a cellphone by means of a provider.
As Lockheimer defined, Google realized it may velocity up this course of, it wished customers to have the ability to get this expertise by downloading an app slightly than ready for one thing they could not management to occur. It was 2019, when Google determined to implement RCS Chat. This easy addition to the Google Messages shopper allowed any person to entry essentially the most primary options of RCS with out counting on their provider to assist Common Profile or machine OEM to assist RCS. Merely put, RCS has began to reside as much as its potential.
Now, all of that is historical past. That is how RCS was born, frankly, it would not matter. What issues is the place it goes from right here. As of Google I/O final yr, Google’s RCS service had 500 million customers, a quantity that Lockheimer says is way bigger now.
Google would not need RCS to exchange your different messaging apps
I wish to begin by quoting Google right here:
Our analysis reveals that the standard particular person makes use of 3 to 4 messaging apps, whether or not it is WhatsApp or Snap. Is incredible. We’re not attempting to combine RCS into one app to rule all of them.
One main remark with RCS extending to extra customers and prompting Apple to assist it, is third-party apps. Why not simply set up WhatsApp or Telegram or Sign? Why do you want RCS? The everyday particular person would not, but it surely would not damage that the default is just a little higher.
RCS on Android will not be meant to exchange the remainder of your apps. Sign continues to be the place to go if you happen to’re on the lookout for extremely safe messaging. Telegram and Discord are the place you go when on the lookout for teams or to speak to your folks. WhatsApp, Fb Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, that is the place you go for family and friends. Google is not attempting to vary that; they do not wish to change it; Hiroshi made that clear.
Each app has its personal goal, and Google would not suppose RCS will change that. Google simply needs one thing higher as default.
The cynical argument for why Google needs RCS to succeed
After speaking to Google about RCS Messaging, one factor turned clear: Google actually needs RCS to take off, exterior of the Android platform. There are a lot of theories as to why Google may wish to push RCS and have it substitute SMS because the default on gadgets globally. Some have theorized that it is knowledge harvesting, however the end-to-end encryption enabled by default makes that unlikely. Others have theorized that Google needs it, so there’s one much less brick in Apple’s walled backyard, and that is sensible, up to some extent.
RCS doesn’t require the usage of all options. Common Profile doesn’t require typing indicators, learn receipts, and so on. Apple may, if it wished, select which components of RCS it want to implement. If they only wished so as to add end-to-end encryption and higher group chats, they may. This walled backyard tearing down idea falls aside when you concentrate on what Apple has the flexibility to do to take care of the walled backyard whereas bettering security and different experiences.
I consider this merely relies on verified messages and RCS for firms. RCS for enterprise permits Google and different suppliers to promote companies entry to raised buyer messaging. As a part of Jibe, Google makes use of RCS to supply wealthy buyer switching. This might be, for instance, Greatest Purchase utilizing RCS to supply QR codes and the flexibility to ship once you’re in RCS chat.
Google sells it as a service to firms for B2C (enterprise to client) communications, so extra gadgets, particularly when iPhone customers are usually keen to spend extra on their cellphone, it turns into simpler to promote to firms spend money on Google Jibe B2C communication companies. This together with all linked Google accounts to ship full decision pictures in Google Images,
Messaging is now not an Android drawback, it is an iPhone drawback
Messaging is mounted for Android customers. When you exit and purchase a brand new Android cellphone straight away, your default messaging shopper will doubtless be Google Messages with RCS chat. Even on older gadgets, simply set up an official Google app from the Play Retailer.
One of many large classes I obtained from speaking to Lockheimer was fashionable messaging and the basics of RCS are labored out on Android. Android customers have entry to RCS globally with one another. It’s peer-to-peer encrypted utilizing the Sign protocol, each person-to-person and in group chats (at present in beta) of as much as 100 individuals.
Texting issues now not exist for the overwhelming majority of Android customers. The issue is now for iPhone customers.
iPhone customers have iMessage Android customers have RCS. The one method to have native cross communication based mostly on the cellphone quantity is with a 20 yr previous protocol. Footage look worse, movies look worse, group chats change into a multitude of overdue messages in teams you may by no means depart. Plain and easy, expertise is the worst.
This protocol is not safe, which is necessary as a result of some of the widespread types of 2-factor authentication is through a textual content message. RCS permits firms to make use of RCS Common Profile with the Sign protocol to encrypt these messages. Because of this, in idea, prospects utilizing two elements with Android may have extra safety than iPhone customers. Realistically, this hasn’t been applied but and certain will not till it is well worth the funding, which it might be if iOS supported RCS.
As Hiroshi mentioned:
Because you talked about Apple, I will simply point out that they speak about how privateness is a human proper and the way necessary it’s to them. I really feel like, look here’s a know-how obtainable now Now I am simply sorry iPhone customers will expertise the degraded options, it might be nice if they may convey that to them. And in addition larger safety for them. You recognize that Android customers are tremendous, texting one another securely and all that, and now it is type of weird as a result of now once they work together with iPhones, they are going to face a degraded safety expertise.
He is proper. There’s a lot to the RCS debate and whether or not Apple ought to assist it, many tech fans and people within the business point out the till lately horrendous expertise as a foundation for why they should not, however as I mentioned earlier than, that is about it. historical past. It would not matter the way it occurred, what issues is how they proceed. Nobody is asking that each one Apple apps on Android have the ability to maintain them. What Google needs, what customers need, and what I need is easy: one thing higher and safer than SMS.
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