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Google Android Cellphones Communications Software

Google Is 'Pausing' Work On Allo In Favor 'Chat,' An RCS-Based Messaging Standard (theverge.com) 146

An anonymous reader shares an exclusive report from The Verge about Google's next big fix for Android's messaging mess: Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it's trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It's going to be called "Chat," and it's based on a standard called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services." SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google's goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps. As part of that effort, Google says it's "pausing" work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It's the sort of "pause" that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. Google won't build the iMessage clone that Android fans have clamored for, but it seems to have cajoled the carriers into doing it for them. In order to have some kind of victory in messaging, Google first had to admit defeat. Some of the new features associated with Chat include read receipts, typing indicators, full-resolution images and video, and group texts. It's important to keep in mind that it's a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It won't be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. The new Chat services will be switched on in the near future, but ultimately carriers will dictate exactly when Chat will go live. Also, you may be persuaded to upgrade your data plan since Chat messages will be sent with your data plan instead of your SMS plan.
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Google Is 'Pausing' Work On Allo In Favor 'Chat,' An RCS-Based Messaging Standard

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  • Nope ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Don't have a data plan, don't want a data plan.

    Fuck you and your data plan, you better keep supporting SMS, because it's not going anywhere.

    • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @09:12AM (#56470663)
      Since SMS is baked into the cellphone signaling protocol (and is the last thing still working in an emergency when data and voice are overloaded), I suspect it will be sticking around for a while.
      • Since data is trivially tiered especially when dealing with services the carriers provide in house, expect to be able to get cheap limited data plans with unlimited "Chat". Or you might find even though Chat uses data, the carrier might charge a small premium to have access onto their Chat infrastructure.

        It might also be similar how you can get a LTE phone where the operators do VoLTE, yet offer plans without data or charge you for minutes at voice rates instead of the VoLTE data rate.

        • If you have a plan that doesn't have unlimited voice, it's because you either did zero research or wanted the cheapest plan you could find.

          I have not seen a limited voice plan in 5 years.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I've never paid for an unlimited voice plan. What's the point? Who wants to pay $30 or more for basic cell phone service?

          • I have not seen a limited voice plan in 5 years.

            Most of the popular prepaid plans are limited.
            People value data more than voice, and only want enough minutes to handle the occasional emergency or maybe the one month you're job hunting.

          • I have a 750 voice minute plan. I probably use 5 minutes a month. I keep it because it's grandfathered unlimited data at $40 a line. Even the reps are impressed when I call in.
      • That's what they said about analog TV, then they needed the bandwidth and it's gone...
    • It probably won't work on iPhones either. I regularly get garbled SMS messages from friends who use iPhones because they didn't use an SMS app to send it. All I want is a messaging service that everyone on any cell, mobile, or smartphone, no matter which carrier, no matter which make of hardware, that just works. For the history of mobile phones, that's been SMS. I see SMS as like email: For all its issues, it's the least bad messaging system we all have.
  • That would mean they have to give up the cash cow that is SMS. I get 4000 sms for 'free' with my pre-paid card and 4GB of data fora month for 25EUR. After a minth I use the 25 to buy 500MB and that is good enough. The other 15 i use for SMS as I have to pay for them.
    Having that included in my data would make me buy less. That will be their profit that is gone.

    Now I pay 0.10 Eur per sms for 120 characters of data. So they already make a shitload on them. Doubt they will drop ot fast.

    • by phayes ( 202222 )

      Cash cow? Depends where you live.

      My free.fr plan is unlimited SMS & 4G data for 15.99€/month.

      What exactly does Google Chat bring me that I do not already have using MMS? Nothing as far as I can see, so I don't see this gaining any more traction than WEP [igi-global.com] did.

      WEP, for those who don't remember, was a web portal tech that was pushed by operators so they could control (and MONETIZE!) cell-phone connections to the Internet. It had a minor point back when phones weren't powerful enough to browse the web d

    • In Europe you have to pay per SMS? How backward.
      • Nobody cares because we all have gigabytes of data in our plans.

        Google needs to do some basic research. No European will ever use this if it's based on SMS.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Only part of the time and because I have a pre-paid.
        Say sta of nanuary I add 25 EUR. When I do that, I can use 4GB data and send 4.000 SMS. What I would need to pay for is calls. I hardly call (VoiP is data). This is valid for 1 month. So the 1st pof befruary I use 10 EUR of that 25 EUR to buy 500 MB for a month. I then pay for my SMS and calls.
        That I do with the 15 EUR I have left. Even if I would use that all, I would be paying 25 EUR per two months.

        OTOH I could take a plan of 25 EUR per month. No extra c

      • Depends on the plan. I pay 2p per SMS and 1p/MB of data on a pre-pay plan, but if you're on a contract you typically get a bundled SMS allowance that's more than anyone who isn't a teenager can possibly use or unlimited on the less-cheap plans. I don't send more than a dozen SMS messages in a month, so paying 2p each cost me very much in aggregate (I typically spend under £1/month in total on my phone, which is less than the cheapest contracts with inclusive allowances). SMS is, per byte, very expe
    • I pay about $6.75/mo for my data plan. If I mainly use it for instant messaging and email, so there is no way I can use up even a tenth of my data plan.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday April 20, 2018 @09:14AM (#56470669) Homepage

    Maybe I'm missing the point, but why are we working on a carrier-based replacement for SMS at all? Building services into the fabric of cell carriers makes everything less transparent and portable, and opens opportunities for them to play hanky-panky with pricing and restrictions. In my view, carriers should accept a role as a dumb-pipe wireless Internet service, and services should be platform agnostic.

    Could we just come up with a messaging standard that everyone can agree to? Get Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all to agree on a set of protocols and standards. The same way that a Gmail user can email and Office 365 user, a user of Apple Messages should be able to message a Facebook user. Why is that so hard?

    As far as I can tell, it's not. It's just that all these companies all want their own little walled gardens so that they can abuse their customers, or else are suffering from Not-Invented-Here syndrome.

    • by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @10:16AM (#56471001) Homepage

      It's called XMPP. It's an open IETF standard, and it supports federation in exactly the way you're talking about -- multiple organizations can run their own infrastructure, and talk to each other, just like you can with email. It's extensible, and it *used* to be exactly how Google Talk works.

      The key feature it's missing is the lock-in walled-garden features all the major players want.

      • Google Talk

        Is all but dead. It was killed off for "hangouts". If anything remains of Gtalk, it is just a skeleton of the service.

        And I'm still bitter.

      • At this point - unless/until someone develops a trivial-to-install OTR-style encryption utility which can transparently sit on top of this service, I don't see any reason for me to use this instead of SMS.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @04:53AM (#56476743) Journal

        The problem with XMPP is fragmentation. The core protocol is an IETF standard, but it's very minimal (messages, presence notifications, basically nothing else, including how clients authenticate with servers). Everything else is handled via XEPs and for every feature there are 3-4 XEPs describing incompatible ways of providing it. Google did a pretty good job with Jingle, which provided file transfer and a way of setting up streams to use for video / voice, but clients all implement different file transfer mechanisms. I don't think I found a single pair of Android XMPP clients that could exchange files, for example. There are multiple mechanisms for publishing avatars. The last time I looked, the most widely supported one was vcard-temp, which involves setting an base64-encoded image in an XML encoding of a vcard that you publish inside your presence stanzas. This XEP was deprecated as soon as it was published because it had a bunch of well-known problems and was intended as a temporary stop-gap. The replacement was built on top of PEP (personal eventing via PubSub) which was, in turn, built on top of PubSub. The PubSub XEP is fiendishly complicated to implement and PEP adds even more complexity, so it was years between the standard being published and any clients or servers properly supporting it.

        This last point really highlights the problem with the XMPP standards process. The IETF requires two interoperable implementations for an RFC to advance. The XMPP Foundation happily publishes standards-track XEPs with zero implementations. They never produced a reference implementation of a client library. Some newer open IM standards have learned from this mistake. For example, Tox provides a client library that is used by multiple clients and serves as a reference implementation. Unfortunately, it's not GPLv3, so anyone wanting to implement a non-GPL Tox client must reimplement the protocol (it's still better than no reference implementation though, and providing an incentive to implement a second client library may be good for the protocol in the long term).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2018 @10:58AM (#56471265)

      Could we just come up with a messaging standard that everyone can agree to?

      Good (no-brainer!) idea.

      Get Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all to agree on a set of protocols and standards.

      Whoa, stop. You suddenly jerked to 180 degrees away from the previous sentence. Those are the enemies of standards. Those companies are why you're not already using a standard. The only reason to invite them to the table, would be if you'd like them to sabotage progress.

      Use a standard (XMPP). All the power is in users' hands. And then those companies can join the game, or they can be left out. But they need to be led; under no circumstances should you be asking any of them to lead, because they have reasons to prevent you from using a standard. They want you to use their app and look at the ads they were paid to show, and have your plaintext go through their marketing analytics. We've been through this before and it's part of the reason why people switched away from standards to proprietary IM where users are locked into using specific apps instead of having competing implementations using interoperable protocols.

      You have to choose between getting what your want xor using those companies' products.

      • Even if Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are the enemies of standards as you say, it doesn't matter since that's what people are using. Either we can demand and force them to use XMPP or something similar and open, or you can try forcing everyone to stop using Facebook, macOS, iOS and Windows. Hint: this will never happen.

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        The problem is that none of those companies want a federated standard, *and* at least Google, Facebook, and Apple all have the resources to out-compete any standard.

        Otherwirse, XMPP (which already exists) would be more viable. None of the services want to endorse a system that allows communicating with users of their platform without first becoming a user of their platform yourself. Sadly, an alternative approach is unlikely to be a sound business plan, and the marketing dollars and such that come with a b

      • Presumably this isn't designed for TCP/IP style internet transmission but rather the S7 network, or whatever it is they use in the 4G/LTE era.

        Regardless, a standard isn't much of a standard if it isn't supported. XMPP is an awesome protocol, my last company was premised around it, and Ideally it IS what should be used, but we can moan and complain all we want about "standards"., but it Android and IOS use something else, then whatever that something else is, its the real standard.

        (For reference I'm fairly s

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Building services into the fabric of cell carriers makes everything less transparent and portable, and opens opportunities for them to play hanky-panky with pricing and restrictions. In my view, carriers should accept a role as a dumb-pipe wireless Internet service, and services should be platform agnostic.

      Could we just come up with a messaging standard that everyone can agree to? Get Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all to agree on a set of protocols and standards. The same way that a Gmail user can email and Office 365 user, a user of Apple Messages should be able to message a Facebook user. Why is that so hard?

      As far as I can tell, it's not. It's just that all these companies all want their own little walled gardens so that they can abuse their customers, or else are suffering from Not-Invented-Here syndrome.

      I agree completely with this. I think the problem has been the addressing not the actual messaging protocols. Meaning we have email addresses @gmail.com @icloud.com @microsoft.com which are interoperable and addressable across Internet providers and then we have phone numbers which are interoperable and addressable across phone networks.

      Universal addressability is the challenge, otherwise how do you send a message to someone?

      I would much prefer to see communication standards based on existing email addr

      • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @12:11PM (#56471683)

        Certain modern norms tha tbenefit the enduser are a result of happening at just the right time.

        The network companies of the time could not keep up with the internet, and as such there were no players to prevent email from settling into the unassailable role it had gotten. It's possible that if AOL had played things a tad bit differently, we'd all be using AOL mail instead and email would be like XMPP, this idealistic concept that no one uses because it can't reach most people. None of the business folk at the time that had the resources was able to foresee a strategy to 'own' that. In this century however, federated standards have generally failed to succeed, as the stakeholders now have a handle on how to prevent that from happening again.

        Same with drm-free music. When wired internet became feasible to transfer music, but maybe not quite stream it as well as music players that couldn't realistically connect to the internet, attempts at DRM failed so badly they had to give up on the concept. By the time video became feasible, so to had network connectivity evolved to the point where any video playback device could pretty much have some network access at all times, or maybe it was the move away from hardware device provided interface towards 'apps' to consume a video content providers product.

        If you strike and get some fundamental truth about technology established, it's hard to get rid of, but the companies are *all* over messaging and won't stand for it.

      • Addressing isn't really the problem. The format of "username@domain" is already used for a lot of things, not just email, and including instant messaging.

        I wouldn't suggest doing instant messaging email standards, though. Email protocols aren't great. It'd be better to develop a new set of standards for messaging, both email and instant messaging. The problem is, you'd need major vendors to buy into the same standards. You'd need Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and others to all agree to support t

    • I think most users would be happy with iMessage but Apple won't open it up. RCS is trying to force Apple's hand at interoperability.
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "Maybe I'm missing the point, but why are we working on a carrier-based replacement for SMS at all?"

      Good quesiton. Why not just use email, which is available on any modern phone? It's easily accessed from multiple devices, even a web browser in many cases. No real limit to size. You can attach documents. All the kids seem to like the limitations of SMS for some reason.
  • So its just for the 1% then

    • Hey, allowing the cell carriers to book more profit and do the heavy lifting of advertising and persuasion for Google, so they don't have to do it. Smart for Google. Glad I don't have to opt in.

  • Color me surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @09:16AM (#56470683)
    Google dropping the ball on a project. Who would have thunk. Google has shown to be pretty good at two things. First, at launching products that are supposed to be kind of flagship, only to abandon them completely after a while. Two, at making sure that their product naming is as confusing as possible. The Google culture, indeed.
    • Two, at making sure that their product naming is as confusing as possible.

      I still give Microsoft credit for winning at that. When they first released "Pixelsense" they called it the Microsoft Surface. And then a few years later rebranded only four months before reusing the name for their laptops.

      • Your point is well taken. However, much as I despise MS (and I despise it cordially) I still think that Google outdoes them in this department.
        • Microsoft Office has been the de facto standard for so long that nobody notices how bad the names are anymore. Word is the only one with an obvious connection between the name and the functionality. Outlook, Excel, and Powerpoint are all pretty meaningless names.
          • These names are all pretty self explanatory. Outlook is a pun, as in 'look out, you're forced to work with Exchange!'. Excel is also pretty obvious. The ex- prefix means dead, and cells are the things that you find in spreadsheets: it's where data goes to die. Powerpoint refers to mains sockets, as in 'I would rather stick my fingers in a mains socket than watch another Powerpoint presentation'. Access is a credit card brand, and the name is intended to signify that you'll pay for putting your data in
  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @09:21AM (#56470717)
    XMPP [xmpp.org] (formerly known as Jabber) has been around since 1999 and has most if not all of these features. Any it is missing can be submitted and added as it's an open standard. Google has essentially embraced its role as the new Microsoft and has begun their EEE [wikipedia.org] march. Chrome has become the new IE6 with all of the non-standard extensions they've rolled out without so much as submitting anything to W3C for consideration. I'm now looking for alternatives to all Google properties.
    • by geek ( 5680 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @10:13AM (#56470977)

      I've been 100% google free for a little over 2 years now. It's surprisingly easy to do.

    • by jouassou ( 1854178 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @10:20AM (#56471023)
      This. I've recently gone through a phase where I've been trying to get monopolies and clouds out of my life myself. If you need any inspiration, this is what I've ended up with:
      • * KolabNow [kolabnow.com] as an email provider instead of GMail. They have a good privacy policy, are hosted in Switzerland which has fair privacy laws, and costs about $3/month.
      • * Syncthing [syncthing.net] for making your own open-source "cloud storage" as a replacement for Dropbox and Google Drive. I've played around with a few alternatives, but this was my favourite; it's very straight-forward to set up, fully peer-to-peer so you don't need a centralized server if you don't want one, and it has clients for most operating systems. The Android app lets you set it to only sync when it's on WiFi and/or charging.
      • * Maps [f-droid.org] is an alternative to Google Maps, which uses OpenStreetMaps, the "Wikipedia of navigation". It doesn't have the same knowledge of local shops and restaurants as Google Maps does, but it is "good enough" for most of my needs, and in contrast to other clients like OsmAnd, the interface is actually quite slick.
      • * CopperheadOS [copperhead.co] for my phone. It's still partially in the Google ecosystem, by being an Android distribution that requires a Nexus or Pixel. But Android itself is still mostly open-source, and this comes with all Google apps and services stripped out. (Lineage works as well, but Copperhead is more focused on privacy and security.)
      • * Yalp [f-droid.org]. Some apps are simply not available outside Google Store (e.g. online banking apps in my case); this helps you install such apps without having to install the full Google Services platform on your phone.
      • * Firefox Focus/Klar [f-droid.org]. In contrast to the usual Firefox browser, this new app is actually useable on a phone; and last time I checked it had better privacy settings than the Chrome browsers you find on most androids.
      • Thanks for the information. My biggest hang-up is Waze. I was disappointed when Google bought them since I knew it was only a matter of time before they screwed it up. Sure enough an update this week implemented Google's "flat" or material design UI and now it looks like a 2 year old's drawing. I'll take a look at the other apps. For my browser I've had great success with Waterfox. [waterfoxproject.org] It's only recently been ported to Android but it works well and since I use it on all of my other devices the interface is the
      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        How good at blocking spam is KolabNow? Google's spam filtering was the reason I switched to them in the first place.

         

      • If you want your own "cloud" storage I'd point you towards Nextcloud, which seems to be quite solid and privacy-focused. Syncthing is a nice P2P file sync protocol though (not too complex to set-up once you understand the general concept), I use it to keep my phone user partition continuously backed up with my main computer just in case.
    • If Google thought that XMPP was good enough, they would have used it. It was the basis for Google Talk and based their protocol for Google Wave on it. Phones don't have always-on connections despite our best wishes, so they would need something a little bit different.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        XMPP works perfectly fine on intermittent connections: there are push notifications, interruptable connections, offline delivery, history retrieval, etc. Google abandoned it because they wanted everyone to use Google. The only reason they can't do the same thing (and they are clearly trying!) with Gmail is still too many people have non-Gmail addresses and they would genuinely lose users if they killed SMTP.

  • Some of the new features associated with Chat include read receipts, typing indicators,

    If I want to pretend I didn't get someone's message, that should be my own damn business. Ditto for "typing indicators" which I assume is what insecure people look at to see if someone is typing them a reply (pathetic fools).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How do you keep an idiot in suspense?
      (Anonymous Coward is typing)

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @09:36AM (#56470779)
    SMS can be used when there is a very weak signal, and no data connectivity. It has been used by hikers, people in sinking ships, and all sorts. This is really the only reason to use it now, but it is important
    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the summary, add this other reason: SMS will work when the voice capability of cellular networks is unavailable because too many people are trying to make calls at the same time. Think mass panic.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      My main reason for using it is that it is free and just works. I don't want to pay extra on my pay as you go plan for data, which is even more expensive here in Canada then the States, and I don't need anything more then text.

    • by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Friday April 20, 2018 @12:55PM (#56471965)

      For me, the "always works" aspect is important. If you send a message and the receiver is a cell phone, they will get the message at some point.

      That's much more important than getting it immediately or not at all (as is sometimes the case with Apple's iMessage). And Apple understands that. Which is why when iMessage fails, they give the opportunity to resend as SMS.

  • Giving people what they do not want, no matter how many times they're told what people want. Google you see, knows better than you, what you want.

  • Did anyone else reading this summary think of the old source control system, RCS? RCS underlies CVS source control, and creates local ",v" files to record source control changes? I still use it occasionally, locally, when I merely want to record changes in a specific configuration file and not be burdened by git or subversion trying to report on all changes in the directory.

    I acknowledge that those would be confusing to send via a telephone based messaging system.

    • Context matters. And you should stop worrying about obsolete software unless you're a computer historian [sourceforge.net].

      • In my case, I am old enough, and and active enough, to be part of computer history. RCS, the source control software, is still useful in very old or extremely tiny environments which have individual files requiring source control. It's also sometimes useful put local files in local source control, in parallel with what Subversion or or CVS or Perforce do, and save local working changes without committing them upstream during local development. Ideally one configures the parallel source control to ignore any

        • I still have SCCS setup on two systems. I used to keep all my DNS configs in RCS, but I've switch them over to Git a few years ago. And I hacked a MUD's back-end text database to co/ci with RCS, which made it easier to track down what people have built or altered. But I'm not geezer enough to go on about the virtues of RCS.

          Having a scratch area by combining RCS and Subversion is equivalent to staging a change in Git. So it might be worthwhile to just switch to Git, Hg or Fossil. And with P4 you can create c

          • I agree that a local git repo can be quite useful: I also use that. _But_ being able to source control individual files, without having to exclude anything else, has occasionally proven quite useful.

            The RCS tracked scratch files, on top of a Subversion workspace, may look like using git locally at a casual glance. But once again, the ability to source control one file only without having to exclude or handle the other files at all can help avoid confusion. I won't insist that it's the best approach: it can

  • Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it's trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS

    Hello Microsoft 2.0

  • Allo, Chat, whatever comes next...

    I'm still using hangouts since it's built into the gmail web interface and the iPhone app isn't that bad either.

  • I don't understand why SMS is not updated. They create G3, G4, G5, VoLTE. Why SMS is still the same? They could at least make messages longer.
  • I'm pretty sure we had widely available instant messaging clients back in the mid-1990's. 20+ years later and we still can't settle on a standard and live with a fractured set of incompatible networks.

    The whole point of the Information Age is for everyone to be connected and able to communicate with each other. Several proprietary chat protocols that are deprecated by their vendor every 5 years goes against progress.

  • Wave really was awesome. It was everything anyone needed or wanted it to be. AND it was opensource and cross platform. If it had been baked into the heart of Gmail from the start it would have taken over the world.

    But sadly it was killed by pride and personal fiefdoms.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why in the world would anyone develop a messaging app nowadays without end-to-end encryption? C'MON, Google!

    JFC. One step forward; two steps back.

  • Google's left hand never knows what the right hand is doing. Less than a couple of months ago, Google released Hangouts for Business under the name Hangouts Chat [google.com]. And thus the product branding confusion continues.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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