Google has been unable to build a stable, competitive messaging platform for years, and has lost out to products with long-term strategies. At least some parts of the company are waking up to how disruptive this is to Google as a company, and now Google’s latest strategy is… begging for mercy from competitors? Since launching iMessage in 2011, Google has launched 13 different messaging apps, and now it says, “It’s time for Apple to fix texting.”
Google has launched a new website called “Get the Message” – a public pressure campaign calling for “tweet @Apple to #GetTheMessage and fix texting”. Google wants public pressure to get Apple to adopt RCS, a small upgrade to Apple’s SMS standard for non-iMessage users. Google has been pushing this strategy since the beginning of the year, but it comes from a company with the most dysfunctional messaging strategy in the world, and comes across as just one tired of harvesting what it’s been sowing company.
Globally, iMessage isn’t that popular (people tend to like Whatsapp), but in the US, iMessage has become a cultural phenomenon enough for Billboard Top 100 to write how bad the green (SMS) iMessage bubble is. One of Apple’s biggest competitors — especially online services — is Google, and Google’s inability to compete with iMessage has contributed a lot to the current situation. Google clearly thinks iMessage’s dominance is hurting its brand, so now it’s good to ask Apple to stop beating it so badly.
Google’s website says: “It’s not about the color of the bubbles. It’s blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts and typing directions, texting over Wi-Fi, etc. These problems exist because Apple refuses to Adopt modern texting standards for people using iPhones and Android phones to text each other.”
A 14-year-old’s standard is “modern,” right?
Some of Google’s claims on this site don’t make much sense. Google says, “Apple converts text between iPhones and Android phones to SMS and MMS, an outdated technology from the ’90s and ’00s. But Apple could adopt RCS (a modern industry standard) to replace these threads.” Neither RCS Modern standards – it’s from 2008 – haven’t kept pace with the times, despite some modest updates since then.
RCS has been around for a long time, but implementation is still poor because it was created by carriers (via GSMA) as a carrier-centric messaging standard. Carriers did this during the heyday of pay-per-message SMS, when carrier messaging was a real source of revenue. Now that operator messaging is commoditized, operators controlling RCS have no incentive to care about RCS. RCS is the zombie specification.
In Google’s defense, SMS is 1986, so RCS is more modern than that. However, this may be more of a sign that you should never work with the GSMA if you don’t have to. If Google and Apple ever teamed up to form a messaging duopoly, they wouldn’t need carriers or their ancient messaging standards.
Google’s proprietary RCS fork
Starting in 2008 means that RCS lacks most of what a modern messaging standard requires.First, as a standard, RCS is carrier messaging, so messages are delivered over the Internet to a single carrier phone number, rather than multiple devices, as you would expect a modern service to operate. As standard, there is no encryption. Google is trying to fit features into the aging RCS specification, but if you consider those parts of the RCS sales pitch that Google does, it’s more like you’re now selling “Google’s proprietary fork of RCS.” If Apple built its proprietary RCS fork into iMessage, Google would love it.
By the way, Google’s version of RCS — RCS promoted on the site with Google-proprietary features like optional encryption — is definitely proprietary. If this should be a standard, Google’s RCS API cannot be used by third parties right now.Some messaging apps, like Beeper, have asked Google to integrate RCS and be told There is no public RCS API and no plans to build one. Google already has an RCS API, but only Samsung is allowed to use it because Samsung has some kind of partnership agreement.
If you want to implement RCS, you need to run messages through some kind of service, who provides that server? Most likely Google. Google acquired Jibe, a leading RCS server provider, in 2015. Today, it has a full sales pitch on how Google Jibe “helps operators rapidly scale RCS services, iterate in short cycles, and immediately benefit from improvements.” So Apple’s adoption of RCS isn’t just about better non-profit nonsense like texting Android users; it’s about running Apple’s messages through Google servers. Google makes money on both server fees and data collection.