34 votes

After ruining Android messaging, Google says iMessage is too powerful

62 comments

  1. [34]
    petrichor
    Link
    You know, I used to be a big advocate for RCS when it was first announced, but now I don't think it's ever going to take off. And I don't really think it should. These are some pretty poinent (?...
    • Exemplary

    You know, I used to be a big advocate for RCS when it was first announced, but now I don't think it's ever going to take off. And I don't really think it should.

    Even if Google could magically roll out RCS everywhere, it's a poor standard to build a messaging platform on because it is dependent on a carrier phone bill. It's anti-Internet and can't natively work on webpages, PCs, smartwatches, and tablets, because those things don't have SIM cards. The carriers designed RCS, so RCS puts your carrier bill at the center of your online identity, even when free identification methods like email exist and work on more devices. Google is just promoting carrier lock-in as a solution to Apple lock-in.

    These are some pretty poinent (? this is a word, i swear) points. You also don't have support for encryption (very intentionally, might I add), aren't ever going to have Apple support, and don't even have a decent RCS library on Android (!!!). Besides that, texting is expensive while data is cheap outside of North America.

    The author also elaborated some on carrier lock-in on Twitter.

    And as a North American - SMS is dying here, too. It used to be a lingua franca of communication channels, but Instagram now broadly plays that role (mostly because of the rubbish experience that is group texting). The younger generation is also used to messaging across a variety of platforms - Instagram, Snapchat, Discord - all of which offer a better experience than texting, even with RCS.


    Really, the future of messaging is in the past! XMPP was great. I have fond memories of growing up with Google Talk/Hangouts: being able to smoothly send my friends attachments and pictures, hop on a video or audio call, and have seamless group chats. Some of us had phones, most of us didn't (we were pretty young at the time). And it worked seamlessly across everybody's different devices and sometimes even clients.

    But XMPP lost its momentum long ago mostly thanks to Google, and from-the-ground-up replacements like Matrix suffer from serious usability and performance problems that are forever going to limit themselves to the technical crowd. And in the meantime, proprietary platforms like Discord that already perfected their chat functionality long ago have had the time to implement the more complicated features, like low-latency audio/video calling. So I don't think RCS has any shot at making it big.

    19 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      SMS ever being expensive was the biggest con carriers ever pulled. It was just messages being added to leftover space in a carrier signal that was being sent anyhow. Hence the character limit of 160.

      Besides that, texting is expensive while data is cheap outside of North America.

      SMS ever being expensive was the biggest con carriers ever pulled. It was just messages being added to leftover space in a carrier signal that was being sent anyhow. Hence the character limit of 160.

      20 votes
    2. [2]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      Frankly, I don't care if I lose friends with this decision, but I will absolutely never sign up for an account for any company owned by Facebook/Meta or if there is any sign of them being...

      And as a North American - SMS is dying here, too. It used to be a lingua franca of communication channels, but Instagram now broadly plays that role (mostly because of the rubbish experience that is group texting). The younger generation is also used to messaging across a variety of platforms - Instagram, Snapchat, Discord - all of which offer a better experience than texting, even with RCS.

      Frankly, I don't care if I lose friends with this decision, but I will absolutely never sign up for an account for any company owned by Facebook/Meta or if there is any sign of them being purchased by that company.

      Frankly I'm just plain uninterested in signing up for anyone's monolithic messaging system. If you want me to sign up with you, you need to be open; if I have to convince someone to use a specific service in order to chat with me, it's an instant failure. The main reason why I put up with monolithic messaging services in the past like AOL or Yahoo messenger was because I could use my own software and have a unified experience. I didn't have to ask people to join a specific service because I could effectively run them all.


      The sad thing is that my main reason why I feel this way isn't just a natural extension of my personal collection of philosophy. It's almost entirely Google's fault. Their first messaging product was a simple XMPP server, and it was the golden age. Everyone had a google account and it was even integrated into some of their other services so if I sent someone a message through it, it was sure to be read eventually even if it wasn't their messager of choice. And because it was open, I was able to use whatever client I wanted to access it.

      And then they closed it because they were launching a new service. And they did it again, and again, ad nauseum. Each time they did it it was a nightmare. Features were always missing, and the new app may have had a nice interface or something else that made it feel rosy, you still got the feeling that it was never as good as whatever it was replacing. For some reason they didn't even bother keeping the same friends lists, so if I wasn't actively talking to them during those time periods, I'd basically lose track of them forever.

      There was only really one thing I wanted out of google's messaging service, and that was for it to remain stable enough so that my grandmother could learn it so we could talk more easily, especially via video chat. But they fucked that up again and again. So Google is literally the last group I would want to listen to about messaging. They have had nearly two decades to figure it out but it's clear that the people in charge have absolutely no idea what they're actually doing.

      9 votes
      1. Micycle_the_Bichael
        Link Parent
        It really speaks to how often google released messaging services that there are entire chat services they released that I cannot remember the names of. Like, sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous....

        It really speaks to how often google released messaging services that there are entire chat services they released that I cannot remember the names of. Like, sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous.

        For those curious, it was Google Allo that I was thinking of.

        4 votes
    3. [13]
      admicos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I know this is not that helpful, but XMPP is still (mostly) great! Yeah, not many people use it, but if you find a way to get people on there, it works. (And it works even better if you and your...

      I know this is not that helpful, but

      XMPP is still (mostly) great!

      Yeah, not many people use it, but if you find a way to get people on there, it works. (And it works even better if you and your contacts have an Android phone, Conversations is wonderful (some forks of it are free on Play Store, Conversations itself is free on F-Droid)).

      Just about everything you said still works well, plus with some alright encryption (I haven't read the specs, but I guess I can assume it doesn't do metadata).

      and from-the-ground-up replacements like Matrix suffer from serious usability and performance problems that are forever going to limit themselves to the technical crowd.

      I count myself as somewhat technical and even I can barely use Matrix, not to mention hosting it is completely outside the question.

      Synapse hogs resources like nobody's business, Dendrite just flat-out doesn't work because of how slow joining even low-to-medium sized rooms (gotta download all the history!!! becasue... uhh. idk?), And I still haven't been able to test Conduit (which people say is great for small single user deployments) because I can't migrate my server key over from Dendrite, and their advice of "just wait a day to make the keys time out" just flat out didn't do anything. I have been waiting since January 2nd.

      7 votes
      1. [11]
        overtowed
        Link Parent
        This comment on Lobste.rs goes into a lot of technical detail about XMPP's shortcomings.

        This comment on Lobste.rs goes into a lot of technical detail about XMPP's shortcomings.

        5 votes
        1. [10]
          admicos
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Yes, it is true that XMPP is not the best, but I believe it's the best option for my use cases, and more importantly, so far. The comment talks a lot about encryption, which I would agree is not...

          Yes, it is true that XMPP is not the best, but I believe it's the best option for my use cases, and more importantly, so far.

          The comment talks a lot about encryption, which I would agree is not that ideal, and might not be as long as it's "XMPP" and not something else.

          Before moving on, I just want to point at this first:

          They recommend looking for servers that support HTTP upload, but this means any file you transfer is stored in plain text on the server.

          At least on my server (which runs Prosody and Prosody-filer), this is false.

          I downloaded one image on my computer to test, and it seems to be nothing more than "data" (as file says), which might just mean it's modified in a way that is not encryption, but I personally doubt it.

          And just to check if this was a fluke or not, I ran file on every upload to check if it could recognize the files accurately, and...

          Long-ish command line dump
          upload$ file **/* | rg -v data
          
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          PGP Secret Sub-key -
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          PGP Secret Sub-key -
          SysEx File -
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          COM executable for DOS
          COM executable for DOS
          Dyalog APL version -15.66
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          DOS executable (COM)
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          COM executable for DOS
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          SysEx File -
          DOS executable (COM, 0x8C-variant)
          DOS executable (COM)
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Public Key
          OpenPGP Secret Key
          

          I at least don't recall uploading any files like those.


          Anyway, for the non-encryption parts of the comment:

          • I don't see how the spam problem is specific to XMPP, any federated (or even p2p, maybe?) protocol would have similar spam problems, it's dependent on the quality of moderation tools to limit their impact.
            • Unless OP is in favor of centralized silos, which is a different discussion involving data ownership and whatnot.
          • Yes, not all clients support all features, there is various incompatibility problems, likely because how old the standard is, and how much extensions it has (and therefore how complicated it gets). But then, HTML+CSS+JS has this problem too, and people are also regularly complaining about how Firefox or Safari/WebKit (which I've heard ıs the "new IE") doesn't support X website that uses Y feature.
            • The only solution to this is, again, centralized silos with closed standards.

          Now here comes the real problem. Yes, XMPP is lacking. But what else are you suggesting us to use?

          • That source-available WhatsApp clone with bonus cryptocurrency scams on top?
            • The one that will chase you down and force your project to give up developing a new client?
            • The one that makes you into unwilling bait for law enforcement which is especially dangerous in less-democratic countries?
              • Woo, can't wait to go to jail because of Moxie!
            • If you are not open (not just in source), you are not a choice to me.
            • I am fine with needing to changing the name, though. That's understandable.
          • Matrix, which you basically can't host without a supercomputer?
          • IDK? IRC, maybe?

          Please, I, and probably a majority of other people, are open for new suggestions.

          5 votes
          1. [4]
            Adys
            Link Parent
            This seems like an exaggeration, and either way a very fixable early-adopter problem. That Matrix takes more server-side resources than XMPP is unsurprising given how much more it does than XMPP,...

            Matrix, which you basically can't host without a supercomputer?

            This seems like an exaggeration, and either way a very fixable early-adopter problem. That Matrix takes more server-side resources than XMPP is unsurprising given how much more it does than XMPP, but to end clients that is irrelevant. And those are what matters.

            Anyway, Matrix is the response to your question. It's just ... still early. But it's one of our best hopes for free and open, secure, reliable messaging...

            10 votes
            1. suspended
              Link Parent
              100% agree. I haven't heard of anything like it. From their website:

              Anyway, Matrix is the response to your question. It's just ... still early. But it's one of our best hopes for free and open, secure, reliable messaging...

              100% agree. I haven't heard of anything like it.

              From their website:

              Matrix is really a decentralized conversation store rather than a messaging protocol. When you send a message in Matrix, it is replicated over all the servers whose users are participating in a given conversation - similarly to how commits are replicated between Git repositories. There is no single point of control or failure in a Matrix conversation which spans multiple servers: the act of communication with someone elsewhere in Matrix shares ownership of the conversation equally with them. Even if your server goes offline, the conversation can continue uninterrupted elsewhere until it returns.

              5 votes
            2. [2]
              admicos
              Link Parent
              That's where the "so far" on the first sentence comes into place. I am mostly hopeful about Matrix, but they're not there just yet, at least in my experience. Though they do make decisions I find...

              That's where the "so far" on the first sentence comes into place.

              I am mostly hopeful about Matrix, but they're not there just yet, at least in my experience.

              Though they do make decisions I find weird so far, like the protocol copying the entire chat room to every server connected to it (which is why Dendrite didn't work well when I tried it), or the people trying to make Matrix a "one protocol does all" thing with their experiments on a social network thing (can't recall the name) and whatnot.

              I'm also curious if an XMPP style "death by extensions" will eventually happen to Matrix as well. There already is a range of feature support in clients, some supporting not much, some supporting a lot, and only Element supporting basically everything you'd need. (Not to mention the same thing on the server side, too)

              2 votes
              1. Adys
                Link Parent
                I think part of the problem with XMPP is that a lot of the functionality they needed was not built in so you needed to deal with XEPs.

                I'm also curious if an XMPP style "death by extensions" will eventually happen to Matrix as well.

                I think part of the problem with XMPP is that a lot of the functionality they needed was not built in so you needed to deal with XEPs.

                2 votes
          2. [5]
            mtset
            Link Parent
            I run Matrix on a $5/mo DigitalOcean droplet. It's my main IM-style communication method online. And that's using the Python-based homeserver; there are other, faster implementations in the works.

            Matrix, which you basically can't host without a supercomputer?

            I run Matrix on a $5/mo DigitalOcean droplet. It's my main IM-style communication method online. And that's using the Python-based homeserver; there are other, faster implementations in the works.

            5 votes
            1. [4]
              admicos
              Link Parent
              Are you running anything other than Matrix on there? The last time I tried Synapse it was very slow on that kind of hardware even if it was the only thing on the server. That said, just a few...

              Are you running anything other than Matrix on there? The last time I tried Synapse it was very slow on that kind of hardware even if it was the only thing on the server.

              That said, just a few minutes ago I managed to fix my broken Conduit install (was a really dumb mistake), so I expect my opinion on Matrix to maybe change in the future.

              (Joining rooms are still slower than what I expect, but whatever)

              2 votes
              1. pallas
                Link Parent
                I'm connected to a Matrix (Synapse) server for a research group. It's on a 6-thread Xeon with 8 GB RAM, but with a dozen people using it pretty regularly, and occasionally pushing it rather hard...

                I'm connected to a Matrix (Synapse) server for a research group. It's on a 6-thread Xeon with 8 GB RAM, but with a dozen people using it pretty regularly, and occasionally pushing it rather hard (we've significantly increased default file upload limits, and use large images and PDFs pretty regularly), it's using less CPU than our (admittedly surprisingly inefficient) wiki on the same server, and less than 200 MB of RAM.

                3 votes
              2. meff
                Link Parent
                A couple years back, Synapse was quite a memory hog due to holding onto old posts in memory for too long and setup was annoying because key settings hadn't been fixed with the SQLite and...

                A couple years back, Synapse was quite a memory hog due to holding onto old posts in memory for too long and setup was annoying because key settings hadn't been fixed with the SQLite and PostgreSQL connectors. Now Synapse is still a bit of a memory hog but with a few settings, runs fine on 1 GB of RAM and some swap. I run it on 2 GB because I use it as my primary messenger and am in a lot of rooms.

                After getting Element setup I've had no issues running it for months. The only maintenance I do is grabbing new versions.

                One of the rooms I frequent sees large volumes of European primary school children who realize that Discord is blocked at school but "this Element thing isn't" so I'm hopeful that the experience is pretty okay these days for non-technical users.

                2 votes
              3. mtset
                Link Parent
                Yep! Gitea, my static blog, an IRC bouncer, and my XMPP server all run on the same box.

                Yep! Gitea, my static blog, an IRC bouncer, and my XMPP server all run on the same box.

                1 vote
      2. noble_pleb
        Link Parent
        We should ALL unitedly support XMPP based open source software like jitsi. That's the only way to escape these walled gardens.

        We should ALL unitedly support XMPP based open source software like jitsi. That's the only way to escape these walled gardens.

        1 vote
    4. [12]
      meff
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The thing is, RCS over carrier networks will often offer lower latency, higher throughput, and have higher QoS than regular internet traffic. When you send and receive an SMS, you're going over...

      It's anti-Internet and can't natively work on webpages, PCs, smartwatches, and tablets, because those things don't have SIM cards.

      The thing is, RCS over carrier networks will often offer lower latency, higher throughput, and have higher QoS than regular internet traffic. When you send and receive an SMS, you're going over the carrier's network. Carriers generally put in decent engineering (depending on the carrier) to minimizing the number of hops between your device and the destination device. 5G will be adding more control/signaling information to the tower negotiation process which can potentially optimize the routing even more.

      In my experience, most IP-based messengers other than Telegram don't really care about the chatter they have on the wire and thus the end-user latency experience. Deploying a few cell extenders in a crowded concert or conference can open up quick routes between folks at the venue (modem -> tower -> other modem), but relying on external IP-based messaging services involves transiting packets from the venue to the nearest ingress to the IP-messenger's network. In practice, instead of being able to handoff packets between modems on the same tower, traffic becomes saturated as everyone attempts to send their messages to the external WhatsApp/Line/Messenger ingress endpoint, and then begin receiving messages from either a phone notification service (Google Push/Apple Push) or from the IP-messenger itself.

      Carrier networks also give you authentication and authorization for free. Lots of IP-based messaging solutions, like WhatsApp, centrally manage the identity on their own service and lock you into their private network that way. I think Matrix or XMPP offers a great free (as in FOSS) IP-messenger solution but unless there's a way to optimize messenger routing, I feel that doing away with carrier-based RCS support for something purely Internet based significantly degrades the messaging experience in any venue where the modem has bad signal to the tower or where the tower is congested.

      EDIT: One thing I've always thought would be interesting is for carriers to host their own IP-based messaging infrastructure. They can offer high QoS routes along towers but also allow external Internet-based connectivity. Matrix or XMPP would be a great choice for something like this.

      EDIT2: There is a possibility that certain messengers, like FB Messenger or Line, due to their ubiquity have made peering agreements with mobile carriers. If that's the case some of the QoS impacts of an IP-messaging solution will indeed be mitigated but it's even worse because there's no way for a new entrant to have the same experience of peering with the carrier as an incumbent.

      4 votes
      1. [5]
        pallas
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        But it also means that authentication is tied to the number and particular carrier's service. There's some ability to port numbers in some places, yes, but it isn't necessarily reliable, and there...
        • Exemplary

        Carrier networks also give you authentication and authorization for free.

        But it also means that authentication is tied to the number and particular carrier's service. There's some ability to port numbers in some places, yes, but it isn't necessarily reliable, and there are significant geographic limitations. In others you can easily lose a number by not using it for too long (eg, the UK), or it could be difficult to port, or, if you are in different places, you might not be able to use the same carrier all the time. Depending on service and pricing complexities, you also may not be able to text others, or others may not be able to text you, either at all, or without charge (potentially even to receive them), and all of this is confusing and dependent on the combination of services.

        I've had the same email address for the last 20 years, without thinking much about it at all. There is no reason why it shouldn't continue working the rest of my life, as I own the domain. It will reach me anywhere in the world, and messages can be sent from anywhere in the world. My connection to the address, and the domain, is entirely separate from the implementations around it; over the years, it has gone to everything from Gmail to self-hosted servers.

        Edit:

        I did not mean to suggest that buying a domain was a better way of handling identity, and it appears that I may have left out some text here. I certainly was not advocating self-hosting, and I'm confused by the responses about that. What I meant was that there is no reason why authentication and authorization should be tied to a particular number that is often narrowly geographically constrained, and has an annoying process to transfer it that is limited to a single country, if it is possible at all. Having identity method that is independent of geography is possible, as is having one that is either specific to the service it is used for, or independent of other services and easy to maintain permanently. Email is an example of a system that allows this. And email addresses at least have the possibility of having these properties internationally, while phone numbers do not.

        6 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          People who own their own domain names are a pretty small niche. The typical email addresses that people have are tied to a large email provider. But in any case it seems like a good idea to assume...

          People who own their own domain names are a pretty small niche. The typical email addresses that people have are tied to a large email provider.

          But in any case it seems like a good idea to assume that neither email addresses nor phone numbers are permanent. The important thing is to have a level of indirection, so that both phone numbers and email addresses can change if needed.

          But the other question is visibility and discoverability. How do you connect to friends? If someone wants your number, what do you give them? What do people put on business cards, when that’s appropriate? Also, there are complicated privacy issues and no consensus about when email or phone numbers should be considered public or private, so you need to let the users decide.

          Some chat services rely on phone numbers, some rely on email, some let you pick a username that you could give out to others, and they each have advantages and disadvantages.

          2 votes
        2. [3]
          meff
          Link Parent
          Right, but how many people own their own domain name and run email through them? When I first ran my own email (more than a decade ago at this point), I let the domain lapse. I was just 1 day late...

          I've had the same email address for the last 20 years, without thinking much about it at all.

          Right, but how many people own their own domain name and run email through them? When I first ran my own email (more than a decade ago at this point), I let the domain lapse. I was just 1 day late for the renewal period and after that had a domain squatter acquire the domain and try to extort me for it back (probably because they saw SMTP traffic on the domain). It was a gigantic hassle porting my stuff to a new domain, but it eventually went well. I continued hosting my email for years and years until I switched to having Fastmail host my email for me. This isn't for the faint of heart though.

          I keep writing variations of this same post on every tech forum so apologies if this comes out a little "clipped". The experience of the last 30 years on the Web has shown that people don't want to run their own servers. They don't want to buy their own domains. They don't want to configure their own things. I'm not the only one who says this; Moxie, the founder and ex-CEO of Signal, has long held this position as well. But tech people continue pointing to the "freedom" that the Internet offers them that only other highly technical people like themselves take advantage of. In practice most people trust a larger provider to handle the complexities of the Internet for them. In practice, most people are using GMail to send and receive emails. I struggle to see why this is such a difficult message to get across to technical folks. It would be like forcing everybody to be their own car/bike mechanic to drive/ride; I can guarantee you many fewer folks would drive/ride if they had to.

          Most IP Messengers already tie identity to phone numbers. Carriers are required by law in many countries to allow number porting; the porting and and their ubiquity is why phone numbers are so often used by IP Messengers as forms of Identity. Porting numbers is usually a fairly turnkey process due to the legislation. Moving domain names requires a lot more work, which is why in practice phone numbers are a decent (but not good) form of Identity. There are more robust, decentralized ways to do this such as the W3C's Decentralized Identifiers or DIDs of course.

          In general I want to see messaging be useful to average people not just the technically inclined. Until the email porting experience is as simple as the phone number porting experience, I don't think email will be that messenger.

          1. [2]
            pallas
            Link Parent
            I'm a bit confused as to how your response relates to my comment, and I suppose a bit dismayed by what appears to be your cut-and-pasting (though thank you, at least, for noting this) an...

            I'm a bit confused as to how your response relates to my comment, and I suppose a bit dismayed by what appears to be your cut-and-pasting (though thank you, at least, for noting this) an admonishing text about self-configuration and complexity that I largely agree with, and seems rather unrelated. I am certainly not advocating that people self-host email: it's not a viable option for the vast majority of even technically-inclined people. Domain names can be frustratingly tricky, yes. I suppose I erred here in mentioning my specific email setup. I could similarly have mentioned people who have had gmail, yahoo, or hotmail addresses for most of their lives, or my Gmail address that has reliably reached me since Gmail was first publicly available. Yes, these are tied to services, but those services are at least often free.

            What I was trying to point out for mobile numbers is that they are limited by service and geography. They can't be ported internationally, because they are fundamentally tied to a single country, and can't always be ported domestically. They are also tied to paid services, which need to be paid continuously, or the number will be lost, and need to be ported between providers in the right way, or the number will be lost. With the exception of the EU, the services generally work poorly outside of a single country, and so people who go between different countries often need to have multiple services, with multiple numbers. Yet these services aren't even required for IP messengers.

            And, in terms of SMS (and I expect RCS), the international experience is horrible. Some people may not be able to text an international number at all, especially in the US, or may have an additional fee for it. Some people may not be able to receive an international text, or may be charged for receiving it. With SMS, there's also often no indication of any of this to the sender. It's not uncommon to see systems that use phone numbers or SMS within a country expect a phone number with that country's country code, even when that isn't a reasonable assumption (eg, in the EU), or have systems that accept other numbers, but then silently fail. These are problems that do impact people who are not technically inclined.

            Email addresses work internationally, without any problems. They are available in a number of forms: people who want complete control of them can have that, and people who want one they never have to pay for and never have to think about can also have that. Username-based services, on the other hand, ensure that, for as long as you are using the service, changes to other, unrelated services won't impact your identity on that service.

            I do use Signal as my primary messenger, and whenever I have a choice in what to use. But it is frustrating that my identity on it is tied to a number which, in two-thirds of the places I tend to be in, is not actually my mobile number there, and that if I ever stopped spending time in that country, I could end up needing to continue to pay for the number, simply to keep my identity on Signal. If it were tied to a username, or an email address, I could simply give that to people, and it would be significantly less confusing.

            2 votes
            1. meff
              Link Parent
              Apologies I think I may be talking past you here. I'll try to do better next time, have a nice day!

              Apologies I think I may be talking past you here. I'll try to do better next time, have a nice day!

              1 vote
      2. [6]
        Don_Camillo
        Link Parent
        i have never heard anybody complain about latency in messaging, and around here nobody, as in not even grandma, uses sms or any carrier based messaging. maybe we've got better infrastructure here

        i have never heard anybody complain about latency in messaging, and around here nobody, as in not even grandma, uses sms or any carrier based messaging.
        maybe we've got better infrastructure here

        2 votes
        1. [5]
          meff
          Link Parent
          I'm not talking about the regular case where you're just sending messages on the train or something. Think about a conference or a concert or if there's an emergency (say an active shooter) or...

          I'm not talking about the regular case where you're just sending messages on the train or something. Think about a conference or a concert or if there's an emergency (say an active shooter) or something. I also do a lot of outdoorsy stuff in the forests and mountains (when I can) and there have been several times when I don't have a strong enough connection to use an IP messenger but I am able to send SMS.

          I've been to Comiket in Japan several times and haven't been able to use any of my my IP Messengers at all except Telegram and even then Telegram was slow. I've been to concerts where I could SMS friends but couldn't use Messengers.

          4 votes
          1. [4]
            Greg
            Link Parent
            For what it's worth, my experience has been the opposite! I still remember the bad old days of firing SMSs into the void at music festivals and not knowing if they'd take minutes, hours, or days...

            I've been to concerts where I could SMS friends but couldn't use Messengers.

            For what it's worth, my experience has been the opposite! I still remember the bad old days of firing SMSs into the void at music festivals and not knowing if they'd take minutes, hours, or days (literally days, on a few occasions) to arrive. Nowadays Signal and WhatsApp deliver reliably within seconds in the same environment, at least for my friends and I.

            Extremely tenuous signal out in the wilderness I'll accept as an issue for IP connections, but in that edge case situation you've still got SMS as a fallback now, right? I'd rather the effort went into a modern IP based system to cover the bulk of usage, with SMS itself remaining for that small window where you've got some signal but not quite enough, rather than focusing on a carrier-centric solution just for the sake of that one circumstance.

            6 votes
            1. [3]
              meff
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              On the contrary, I think communication should always be about the long tail. Let's think about the circuit-switched PSTN networks of developed countries (since copper lines were in terrible shape...

              I'd rather the effort went into a modern IP based system to cover the bulk of usage, with SMS itself remaining for that small window where you've got some signal but not quite enough, rather than focusing on a carrier-centric solution just for the sake of that one circumstance.

              On the contrary, I think communication should always be about the long tail. Let's think about the circuit-switched PSTN networks of developed countries (since copper lines were in terrible shape in most developing or underdeveloped countries.) Telecoms (lol, basically Ma Bell in the US) used to offer 2-4 nines of reliability. Governments also mandated that PSTN lines had separate power on them, so in the event of an emergency, one could use a PSTN line to, if nothing else, at least receive information about what was going on, if not send out emergency communications. Of course circuit-switching's lack of packetization and the much lower bandwidth of PSTN lines meant that in truly terrible local events, the PSTN circuits would be saturated quickly. In the more "standard" tail events, like say a power outage, or a home emergency, you had a communications line to emergency authorities that was guaranteed to be up >= 99% of the time. Then of course due to the nature of circuit-switched networks, you had very low latency on these networks, so you're never going to start breaking up when you're trying to dial emergency authorities or family members. This isn't theoretical, I remember having local infrastructure blow during a heatwave in the late '90s, and having phone calls to our power provider be the only way for us to receive information as to the status of the repairs. If this was over an IP messenger, and the IP messenger ingress points lost power, we'd be SoL.

              IP Messengers have limited governmental oversight or guarantees. While I'm guessing WhatsApp and Messenger may commit themselves to an SLA internally (though I haven't found evidence of it publicized), I doubt some of the smaller IP Messengers have any SLA of any kind. Then latency goes out the window also. If I'm in an area of poor connectivity and get hurt, I'd much rather have a working messaging solution than a not-working one. Why optimize for the "happy path" (high connectivity situations), when those situations are already adequately taken care of by residential or business wired internet solutions? IMO the true value of a communications network is its reliability.

              I don't think sacrificing openness or interoperability is worth sacrificing for the life-saving benefits of a truly tail-capable communications network. There's also lots of people that still live in rural areas that are only served by low-quality links to local towers that don't work all the time. Instead of offering them poor QoS just because we want to embrace the openness of the internet (which IMO is quite selfish), we should offer them quality messaging solutions. I don't think it's responsible for a developed nation's government to say "well the Internet is open but Verizon's network was not, so the reason you can't send an emergency text in a rural town is because we value the Internet more than your communications, hope you weather your situation well."

              IMO I think it's high time for governments to impose regulations upon IP messengers, like the ones they used to do around the old PSTN network. Base the regulation around the # of users located in the regulating country that you have (so you don't burden small providers). Regulations should require SLAs and standards for interoperation so that carrier networks are reachable outside of their closed networks.

              5 votes
              1. [2]
                Greg
                Link Parent
                I broadly agree, but my point is that we already have SMS covering all of these cases. I'm saying keep SMS as-is for an emergency fallback, and focus efforts on an open, device-agnostic,...

                I broadly agree, but my point is that we already have SMS covering all of these cases. I'm saying keep SMS as-is for an emergency fallback, and focus efforts on an open, device-agnostic, carrier-free IP based solution for actual daily use.

                I don't know of any SLAs on SMS either, and I'd be genuinely interested to know whether it's more reliable in aggregate than IP based services. Like I said above, my anecdotal experience is the opposite in a lot of circumstances, and even though it's nice to have as a fallback, I personally wouldn't be comfortable relying on an SMS-like service as my primary messenger in difficult situations.

                A lot of the examples you gave about PSTN were more relevant when it was the only game in town - nowadays resilience is often best achieved by having a multitude of redundant options. PSTN was bulletproof because it was a single point of failure on essentially all real-time communications. Similarly, if I lose my carrier-linked device, or my carrier goes down in my area, that's the end of my ability to use SMS.

                In that same situation, I can use Signal (or even just email) on my laptop, tablet, toaster, or whatever other device I can access. I can hunt down an internet connection in a multitude of ways, some as a superset of having a carrier connection and some where that would be totally impossible. I would have much more confidence in my ability to access the internet in an emergency than I would in my ability to access a certain carrier's network from a specific device. But again, if the chips are down and it turns out I'm wrong there, we're still fine: nobody's turning off SMS!

                SLAs on larger IP messaging services? Sure thing, let's do it. Let's add those SLAs to the mobile carriers themselves while we're at it, and the ISPs. They don't even necessarily need to be punitive, they can be a way of unlocking extra government support to stabilise essential networks in emergency situations.

                4 votes
                1. meff
                  Link Parent
                  Big +1 from me. The problem with this is that it works in urban areas but not in a lot of rural areas, and the lesser developed the country, the larger the problem is. A lot of the same rural...

                  I broadly agree, but my point is that we already have SMS covering all of these cases. I'm saying keep SMS as-is for an emergency fallback, and focus efforts on an open, device-agnostic, carrier-free IP based solution for actual daily use.

                  Big +1 from me.

                  A lot of the examples you gave about PSTN were more relevant when it was the only game in town - nowadays resilience is often best achieved by having a multitude of redundant options. PSTN was bulletproof because it was a single point of failure on essentially all real-time communications. Similarly, if I lose my carrier-linked device, or my carrier goes down in my area, that's the end of my ability to use SMS.

                  The problem with this is that it works in urban areas but not in a lot of rural areas, and the lesser developed the country, the larger the problem is. A lot of the same rural areas that have bad tower coverage also probably have very few utilities offering high-speed internet.

                  But I think I'm just quibbling over details at this point. I'd love to see SLA-enforced government-mandated IP-messaging networks by the carriers.

                  2 votes
    5. NomadicCoder
      Link Parent
      Snapchat? That has to be the worst user experience that I've ever seen. My kids use it, so I'm stuck using it now and then, and hate it.

      The younger generation is also used to messaging across a variety of platforms - Instagram, Snapchat, Discord - all of which offer a better experience than texting, even with RCS.

      Snapchat? That has to be the worst user experience that I've ever seen. My kids use it, so I'm stuck using it now and then, and hate it.

    6. [4]
      NoblePath
      Link Parent
      The spelling you seek is poignant.

      The spelling you seek is poignant.

      8 votes
      1. [3]
        Tardigrade
        Link Parent
        It could also be pertinent?

        It could also be pertinent?

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          petrichor
          Link Parent
          That's it!

          That's it!

          4 votes
          1. AugustusFerdinand
            Link Parent
            Good job team! Working together we figured this out! Now if we can just figure out a messaging standard...

            Good job team! Working together we figured this out!

            Now if we can just figure out a messaging standard...

            8 votes
  2. [7]
    hamstergeddon
    Link
    Don't even get me started on Google's confusing-as-fuck messaging ecosystem. I started a new job in August and the company uses a Google stack and figuring out what messaging app/site to use was...

    Don't even get me started on Google's confusing-as-fuck messaging ecosystem. I started a new job in August and the company uses a Google stack and figuring out what messaging app/site to use was confusing. There's Hangouts and then there's Chat. I tried to use Hangouts, but it told me to use chats, but then I had to hop back into Hangouts to do video calls, which is ridiculous.

    My previous job was on an MS stack, where all of that is just rolled into Teams and worked more or less perfectly. Plus it had calendar integration, which was really nice for keeping tabs on upcoming meetings. I guess Google has that in Gmail, where all of the above co-exists, but then that's a third confusing option from Google. Plus I don't like Gmail's UI at all. Teams used tabs to keep things organized, but Google's approach is "Let's show everything all at once on once screen". And none of these things have desktop apps either, it's all in the browser which means very basic notifications. I can't hop into a call via a notification when someone calls me, I can't accept a meeting invite via notifications like I could on Teams, etc.

    It boggles my mind that Google has made their own messaging ecosystem so confusing. And I'm saying that as a tech-savvy person, who knows how tech-illiterate folks are managing.

    9 votes
    1. [5]
      Micycle_the_Bichael
      Link Parent
      This is interesting. I fully agree with the google point but I am surprised by the Teams one. Maybe I'm still getting acclimated, but I fucking hate Teams. I can never figure out how to get it to...

      This is interesting. I fully agree with the google point but I am surprised by the Teams one. Maybe I'm still getting acclimated, but I fucking hate Teams. I can never figure out how to get it to do what I want it to do. It works great for meetings because, as you mention, it has integration with Outlook so is tied to my calendar. The second I need to do not-meetings on it I want to tear my hair out. Right now we have Slack and Teams and I know the reason they're rolling out teams is to try and drop Slack, but holy shit is that going to be a shitshow if they do. I cannot imagine trying to do my day-to-day communications in Teams, and I cannot imagine how we are going to migrate all the automation and bots we have in Slack into Teams.

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        TheJorro
        Link Parent
        It's worse if you're a large company because Teams/O365 doesn't have a decent way to apply things like add-ons or extensions to specific teams/groups within an enterprise. For example, we can't...

        It's worse if you're a large company because Teams/O365 doesn't have a decent way to apply things like add-ons or extensions to specific teams/groups within an enterprise.

        For example, we can't enable Jira integration in Teams because it would require permissioning it for the entire enterprise, not just for our specific Team for some reason. And that's just a free one, this means any paid add-on is absolutely not possible. Meanwhile in Slack (and Atlassian Sites), these things can be set up per workspace/site so that only the immediate team is permissioned to or has to pay for their use of those add-ons. So a paid add-on that costs $1000 in Slack would cost $200k in Teams. Ridiculous.

        And maybe it's possible to configure this out properly and split it up but I've been through three large companies where this wasn't the case, and Microsoft does not provide support (proactively or prescriptively) to help an enterprise IT group navigate this. Maybe there's one or two clever IT people who could spend a day or two doing it but, practically speaking, it's not going to happen in most corporations.

        9 votes
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          Of all the vendors I've worked with, Microsoft is definitely near the bottom for support, unless you're willing to pay out the nose. And I work with Oracle products. That's saying something. It...

          Microsoft does not provide support

          Of all the vendors I've worked with, Microsoft is definitely near the bottom for support, unless you're willing to pay out the nose.

          And I work with Oracle products. That's saying something.

          It doesn't help that Microsoft seems to change it's hyperlink standards for documentation and community sites it runs so often that half the links I find for my own troubleshooting end up with dead ends.

          4 votes
      2. hamstergeddon
        Link Parent
        tbh, I hated it too (search being terrible was the biggest reason), it's just that it's still substantially better than Google's offerings despite that. I can't even directly name Google's...

        tbh, I hated it too (search being terrible was the biggest reason), it's just that it's still substantially better than Google's offerings despite that. I can't even directly name Google's offerings because they're so inconsistent with it!

        At least Teams is consistent and serves as mostly all-in-one package.

        4 votes
      3. NomadicCoder
        Link Parent
        I also hate Teams, especially as a Linux user. They have an app, but it's unreliable, the UI is a mess, and it takes 2 or 3 tries to connect to every meeting. I complain every time somebody...

        I also hate Teams, especially as a Linux user. They have an app, but it's unreliable, the UI is a mess, and it takes 2 or 3 tries to connect to every meeting. I complain every time somebody schedules w/ Teams over Zoom.

        2 votes
    2. vord
      Link Parent
      Perhaps I am suffering PTSD from the past, but I see a horrid amalgamation of Skype-for-Business and Sharepoint wrapped in a horrid UI that is somehow bad for both threaded conversations and...

      My previous job was on an MS stack, where all of that is just rolled into Teams and worked more or less perfectly.

      Perhaps I am suffering PTSD from the past, but I see a horrid amalgamation of Skype-for-Business and Sharepoint wrapped in a horrid UI that is somehow bad for both threaded conversations and linear ones.

      I'll admit O365 has finally provided a decent alternative to Google's office products. Mostly. Google's multi-user editing is still way better IMO.

      3 votes
  3. [3]
    Jedi
    Link
    I agree that Google has botched messaging in its extensive history, but RCS should be adopted across platforms and I think the point people are clinging onto is unproductive.

    I agree that Google has botched messaging in its extensive history, but RCS should be adopted across platforms and I think the point people are clinging onto is unproductive.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      helloworld
      Link Parent
      Why should RCS be adopted? It doesn't have E2EE even, IIRC. Any interpersonal protocol that doesn't default to E2EE is really bad idea.

      Why should RCS be adopted? It doesn't have E2EE even, IIRC. Any interpersonal protocol that doesn't default to E2EE is really bad idea.

      5 votes
      1. TheJorro
        Link Parent
        SMS doesn't have it either, RCS is still a straight upgrade from it.

        SMS doesn't have it either, RCS is still a straight upgrade from it.

        6 votes
  4. babypuncher
    Link
    I cannot get behind any potential iMessage replacement that does not offer end-to-end encryption. Even with that aside, RCS is a downgrade from iMessage in almost every other way. Google's...

    I cannot get behind any potential iMessage replacement that does not offer end-to-end encryption. Even with that aside, RCS is a downgrade from iMessage in almost every other way.

    Google's inability to compete with iMessage has nothing to do with Apple wielding too much power and everything to do with Google's own incompetence. They keep rolling out half-baked messaging platforms, then killing them off, all while ignoring the one key feature that makes iMessage successful: Seamless integration with the built-in SMS app. iMessage is successful because I do not have to show my mom how to download a different app, sign in, and tell her to use different apps depending on who she is talking to.

    6 votes
  5. [10]
    suspended
    Link
    I've been very happy beta testing Beeper. Many years ago I used Trillian.

    I've been very happy beta testing Beeper. Many years ago I used Trillian.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      I have an old and unused iPod Touch. Would that work for iMessage or does it specifically have to be an iPhone? Because I have a home server I could self-host their stack on, so if I can jailbreak...

      I have an old and unused iPod Touch. Would that work for iMessage or does it specifically have to be an iPhone?

      Because I have a home server I could self-host their stack on, so if I can jailbreak and install their app on the iPod to get iMessage working, I might do that...

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        I've got Beeper running on the newest iPod Touch. I am assuming that it should work on your old iPod Touch. You could check/ask at r/beeper and they have an Element/Matrix community room as well.

        I've got Beeper running on the newest iPod Touch. I am assuming that it should work on your old iPod Touch. You could check/ask at r/beeper and they have an Element/Matrix community room as well.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          Just to be clear, because I see that you also have a Mac, do you mean specifically that Beeper is working on your iPod Touch as a bridge, or is it just the client app used to message people? (The...

          Just to be clear, because I see that you also have a Mac, do you mean specifically that Beeper is working on your iPod Touch as a bridge, or is it just the client app used to message people? (The bridge and client might actually be the same app, I'm just trying to figure out for sure if I can use an iPod as a bridge to, for instance, enable iMessage on my Android phone)

          Anyways, thanks for the answers!

          1. suspended
            Link Parent
            As far as I understand this, I have Beeper for desktop Mac. I, also, have Beeper for iPhone/iPod Touch. These are two separate apps as far as I can tell.

            As far as I understand this, I have Beeper for desktop Mac. I, also, have Beeper for iPhone/iPod Touch. These are two separate apps as far as I can tell.

            1 vote
    2. [5]
      Merry
      Link Parent
      I wish I could use Beeper now, but they quoted me $120 pre-pay to "skip the line". I feel like I entered my email to join the wait list a while ago but didn't hear anything. If I use Beeper, do I...

      I wish I could use Beeper now, but they quoted me $120 pre-pay to "skip the line". I feel like I entered my email to join the wait list a while ago but didn't hear anything. If I use Beeper, do I get similar functionality as iMessages with iPhone users?

      1. [3]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        I haven’t used the iMessages functionality but my understanding is you need a Mac device with beeper installed for it to work. I am guessing it uses the Mac to decrypt and act as a proxy. cc...

        I haven’t used the iMessages functionality but my understanding is you need a Mac device with beeper installed for it to work. I am guessing it uses the Mac to decrypt and act as a proxy. cc @hungariantoast

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/21/22242143/beeper-universal-chat-app-imessage-whatsapp-signal-telegram-pebble-founder So unless something has changed in the past year (which is totally possible)...

          https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/21/22242143/beeper-universal-chat-app-imessage-whatsapp-signal-telegram-pebble-founder

          An FAQ on Beeper’s website gives a more in-depth explanation of exactly what this trickery involves. If you’ve got an always-online Mac, then you can install the Beeper Mac app to act as a bridge, similar to the approach AirMessage uses. But things get really wild if you don’t have access to a Mac, at which point Beeper says it’ll literally send each of its users a “Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed” in order to act as a bridge. At this point we should probably mention that using Beeper involves paying a $10 a month subscription, which may or may not include the cost of the iPhone.

          Just in case you thought Beeper was joking, in a followup tweet, Migicovsky said that he currently has 50 old iPhone 4S’s at his desk, ready to be upcycled for use with Beeper.

          So unless something has changed in the past year (which is totally possible) it seems using a (even very old) jailbroken iPhone as a bridge will work.

          I wish there was actual information available on Beeper's website instead of just a link to sign up for something...

          1. Adys
            Link Parent
            I mean it’s still being worked on and it has a lot of glitches so I’m not surprised they’re not inviting too many people until they got things sorted out. I’m reporting as many issues as I can though.

            I mean it’s still being worked on and it has a lot of glitches so I’m not surprised they’re not inviting too many people until they got things sorted out. I’m reporting as many issues as I can though.

            1 vote
      2. suspended
        Link Parent
        As far as I can tell, yes. I am a Mac user. @Adys is the one who helped me with the 'skip the line' process, so you may want to speak with them.

        If I use Beeper, do I get similar functionality as iMessages with iPhone users?

        As far as I can tell, yes. I am a Mac user.

        @Adys is the one who helped me with the 'skip the line' process, so you may want to speak with them.

        1 vote
  6. [7]
    bilbodwyer
    Link
    I'm not an iPhone user, and indeed, not an SMS user. WhatsApp is king in the UK, at least up to a certain generation as far as I can tell. People younger than me that I message at uni seem to...

    I'm not an iPhone user, and indeed, not an SMS user. WhatsApp is king in the UK, at least up to a certain generation as far as I can tell. People younger than me that I message at uni seem to prefer Instagram. Lots of people on the local music scene seem to prefer Facebook Messenger.
    It would be super cool to see Apple and Google (or Samsung?) team up to create a single, secure messaging standard that isn't in the hands of goddamn Meta.

    3 votes
    1. krg
      Link Parent
      Dunno why they’d have to create a new standard when XMPP already exists.

      Dunno why they’d have to create a new standard when XMPP already exists.

      7 votes
    2. [2]
      jokeyrhyme
      Link Parent
      Hooray for business models getting in the way of actually delivering value

      Hooray for business models getting in the way of actually delivering value

      6 votes
      1. EgoEimi
        Link Parent
        It's not even good business. Had it a modicum of steadfastness and vision, Google could have dominated the messaging market today.

        It's not even good business.

        Had it a modicum of steadfastness and vision, Google could have dominated the messaging market today.

        3 votes
    3. JCPhoenix
      Link Parent
      They will eventually, but one or two companies won't join in. It'll be like that XKCD comic about standards. I used LINE for a while while playing a mobile MMO since that's what the community used...

      They will eventually, but one or two companies won't join in. It'll be like that XKCD comic about standards.

      I used LINE for a while while playing a mobile MMO since that's what the community used and it was great. I was so surprised the first time I used it. Stickers, replies, ability to leave and join chats at will. iMessages has certainly gotten there (which I'm a user of), but it's too bad Android and the rest of the US hasn't. Instead we're stuck with SMS.

      2 votes
    4. weystrom
      Link Parent
      Same deal for the most of European countries, it's mostly US stuck with SMS for some reason.

      Same deal for the most of European countries, it's mostly US stuck with SMS for some reason.

      2 votes
    5. Tardigrade
      Link Parent
      WhatsApp or FB Messenger share the UK university group chat niche even when Instagram is popular for personal messages.

      WhatsApp or FB Messenger share the UK university group chat niche even when Instagram is popular for personal messages.