back to article Heir to SMS finally excites carriers, by making Google grovel

A couple of weeks ago, the world learned that Google's desire to gain more than a toehold in the world's messaging market had spawned a new "Chat" app. The news left El Reg scratching its head because Google's new effort supports Rich Communication Services (RCS) – an effort that's spent years in that dullest of places: The …

  1. ARGO

    Doubled?

    "Doubled" the number of networks and users? I note the lack of actual numbers in that statement..... Suggests it's still a long way from ubiquity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doubled?

      They won't say how many users they have now, but both of them are very happy with it.

      1. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Doubled?

        "159 million people are already using RCS monthly,"

    2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: Doubled?

      So it's basically a way for advertisers to rope us in even more? Forgive me if I don't get excited. It sounds fucking shite. I bought myself a NOS W810i which I plan to use in future. I'll go online when I'm home, enough is enough.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Doubled?

      Previously the number of users was zero, because it didn't exist. It is now double that.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the idea, and I'm looking forward to ticking the "block all incoming enriched calls" box.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I love the idea, and I'm looking forward to ticking the "block all incoming enriched calls" box.

      I currently use a (3G) feature phone for my calls and SMS that I bought from Amazon. That does get a few spam messages but I know to ignore them and block the number. I have a smartphone which I use for WhatsApp - because the rest of the family do - and email/the Internet. Anybody who calls or sends an SMS to that phone will find that it isn't read/answered. The same will apply to any RCS messages if I can't disable/delete the app or block it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, this looks like a list of functionality I'll be turning off at the first opportunity.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Well, it would help if they include whitelisting by default. That way we can say exactly on whom we'll put up with this new stuff.

    2. leexgx

      RCS should help to prevent SS7 hijacking so disabling RCS seems a bad idea

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Just what the world needs

    Yet another messaging system.. Haven't we got enough of them already ?

    We can't resolve the SPAM problem so why add yet another means of inbox ( albeit SMS inbox) pollution.

    1. Tabor

      Re: Just what the world needs

      *We* have enough. But on the last count I have 5 in active use (including standard sms), and 3 of those are only there because some dictator somewhere decided that the default ones are to be blocked. So I’ve got messaging apps with contacts based on country. Whatsapp for regular folks and family, wechat for the Chinese, Signal and Telegram for our Eastern European brethren that may or not have a working VPN, and SMS for all of those that don’t mind the artificially high cost (try texting a lot from anywhere in the Middle East and than check your post-paid phone bill).

      1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        Re: Just what the world needs

        All I use is SMS & Telegram. WhatsApp gives me the creeps.

    2. eswan

      Re: Just what the world needs

      "Yet another messaging system.."

      You mean "Yet another advertising platform.."

  5. fuzzie
    Unhappy

    Encryption?

    They had a perfect opportunity to offer a cross-platform, non-silo'd, end-to-end secure service, but it doesn't appear that was even considered. Granted, telcos from certain large countries would surely not be keen on that. Also, as VoLTE has shown us, SIP has its own boat full of security and data leakage issues.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Encryption?

      This is about ubiquity and interoperability not security. All telco's are regulated and many of them have high data privacy standards that limit both what they can do with the data going over the network and who has access to it. In many countries this means a warrant must be obtained by the authorities. Far from perfect but good enough for a notification that the plane is late or a parcel has been dispatched.

      It was the ubiquity of SMS over the D-channel that made it successful. Then the telcos decided they could charge for it and stifled further development and left the space wide open for the OTT chat services, which largely depend on collecting personal data and spurn interoperability. I think we all have at least two different messenging apps depending on who we're talking to.

      WhatsApp is definitely the market leader and increasingyl companies are using it to contact customers, eg. booking.com and Deutsche Bahn. This is only likely to increase and I for one would rather have the communication running over a regulated system than at Facebook's whim.

      The marketing and advertising side is being bigged up but I wouldn't expect this to change significantly because it mirrors existing services that are regulated. 15% is a great rate for any direct messenging campaign but you can understand that this might improve by being able to include a picture and a call to action, as we already have in a lot of apps. Being able to use standard infrastructure makes less development and maintenance work for companies.

      So, all in all, there's a lot to like assuming the networks keep a lid on unsolicited messages.

      1. cmaurand

        Re: Encryption?

        The NSA is already intercepting all traffic. Unencrypted just makes it interesting for them. If I send a message with a link and an interactive SIP connection, the carrier may not be able to disclose data, but the person initiating the SIP session gets a lot of data if the connection completes. What could go wrong? Now I have a constant unencrypted sip connection to my phone and the microphone is listening all the time. Seriously, this thing stinks in a whole bunch of levels.

  6. Dr_N Silver badge
    Stop

    Bloat

    Anyone remember the "good" old days when networks disabled inter-network and international sms to try and protect their voice revenue?

    They don't want useful or easy features.

    They just want bloat.

    They just can't control themselves when it comes to bloating things.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Bloat

      Even today, inter-network SMS gateways are tied together with damp string, so I'm not sure the carriers are the obvious people to implement anything more complicated.

      Moreover, if RCS is built on SIP. the only reason I can think of for not running it directly on top of IP is the inherently ougoing-only connection model of the current NAT'ed IPv4 implementations run by the telcos. I assume IPv6 would solve that problem better than some bodged-up system for generating carrier income.

      I think that's the first time I've said something favourable about IPv6. I need to lie down now...

  7. Mage Silver badge

    SMS vs random new system

    Any new system should avoid the mistake of email and SMS. You should have to disclose who you are and get whitelisted before a destination will accept a message.

    It should not allow obfuscated web links.

    It should not allow scripts or any form of executable code.

    It should only allow small images. A BIG advantage of SMS is that it's very friendly for bandwidth. In reality Mobile will never have a large amount of bandwidth or cap cheaply. Many mobile operators rely on selling subscriptions that are not used up or voice to subsidise data. Voice on the same network costs Mobile very little (though 4G uses VOIP which is MUCH more expensive on data/bandwidth compared with native GSM/3G voice). Internet data costs mobile operators for upload and download. Any "rich format" messaging successful will be used on WiFi / Tablets / Laptops etc.

    Not everyone can afford data or packages with Data. SMS is universal and costs nothing to receive (outside USA anyway). An alternative to Viber, Signal, Skype, QQ, Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook etc for messages with text, links and images can only succeed if it has the Whitelisting mechanism mentioned and costs nothing to receive (no data allowance needed or used up) and has a defined near zero cost to send.

    Note Tencent's QQ /WeChat etc might even be "bigger" than Facebook, which inflates their statisics!

    1. Rol Silver badge

      Re: SMS vs random new system

      If only your observations, of how the current spam system has failed the world, were implemented.

      In reality the very failings that everyone wants fixing, will never get fixed, as they generate billions of dollars for businesses and carriers.

      And after a lengthy period of holding my friends hand as he detoxed his iphone, which his ex had managed to hack with ease, using an off the shelf app. - I'm predicting a surge in dumb phone ownership. within months of this new messaging protocol coming into use. It's going to be a slavering beast from hell, prettily dressed up as the new shiny thing you must have.

      Once upon a time, it was envisaged that humanitie's end would come in one sudden impact, be it a space rock or lots of little impacts from the nuclear arsenals of the world, but it's becoming clear, the end of humanity is arriving in small incremental packets of loathsome botheration.

    2. leexgx

      Re: SMS vs random new system

      main issue with SMS is very easy to redirect them (SS7 hijacking) 2FA codes should not be using SMS

  8. LDS Silver badge

    So, once again instead of being about messages, it's about more ads???

    Sure, what we need is another way to be targeted by ads wherever we go?

    I use SMS exactly because they are asynchronous, I send them, you can read them whenever you like, and if you need, answer (if I need to talk to you synchronously, I'd call, we speak faster than we type). And I don't really need images, video or interactive features.

    Never seen them as a form of "chat", and I am very careful about not letting anybody to use them to send me spam - or any kind of ads.

    Thereby I'll disable too any new functionality that is designed to saturate me with ads - I've better and more interesting things to do than reading ads and obey to their instructions, sorry.

    PS: please, break up Google (and any other entity) separating the ads business from whatever can drive standards.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: So, once again instead of being about messages, it's about more ads???

      I've never regarded SMS as a 'chat' program.

      It's an email-lite program - no attachments, plain text, asynchronous.

      And like you, I am happy with the asynchronous nature of SMS. If I want to 'chat' with someone I'll use an actual chat program or voice/video communication (whether it be an app or an actual telephone call).

      If RCS will effectively be just another chat app on the phone that follows a more widely accepted common standard - and I can disable/whitelist it - great.

      If it replaces SMS, it needs to be able to be configured as an asynchronous messaging system, otherwise I just won't use it.

      1. Richard Jones 1

        Re: So, once again instead of being about messages, it's about more ads???

        If this wonderful new thing is aimed at a specific demographic I am not part of that demographic. If it really does aim to replace SMS then all it has done is replace a useful asynchronous function with an unwanted and largely useless cost generator that I would seek to disable. Voice is 'now,' SMS is 'when I can ' and advertising is for sometime after the third millennium - on someone else's account., so called messaging is voice or it does not exist I only bought a new phone for (a) map functions, (b) hands free voice in the car when emergencies strike and (c) for anything extra should a use ever arise. My typical data use is 50~70 MB per month usually in hospital waiting rooms. The worst interruptions I have suffered have been indications that so and so has an open WiFi network - lucky them, I think.

        As long as SMS continues this new thing can be allowed to pass me by.

    2. Chronos Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So, once again instead of being about messages, it's about more ads???

      Precisely what I was going to say. Don't we spend enough time swatting nuisance marketing messages from our field of vision already?

      Technology, especially the Internet which was built from the ground up with host equality, should serve the user rather than some massive conglomerate pushing useless crap to buy with money we don't have yet. No wonder people are in debt up to their eyeballs.

      My rule of thumb for quite a while now has been "if they need to advertise it, I don't need it."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As my next phone will be back to a flip or side slide, I had an LG Rumour 2 that was all I needed, I definitely don't want anything that even potentially increases my cost. The thing I didn't like about that phone was they one could get on the Internet which with it's screen size was a ridiculous waste of money for me, at least.

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Don't Want

    Next thing they'll be trying to deprecate phones that can handle voice.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Don't Want - Next thing they'll be trying to deprecate phones that can handle voice.

      Without naming, to avoid potential fanboy downvotes, my extensive testing suggests some phone makers have been trying to do that for a long time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't Want - Next thing they'll be trying to deprecate phones that can handle voice.

        Next thing they'll be trying to deprecate phones that can handle voice

        No. But almost. The way forward (for telcos) is to subtly deprecate SMS. To do some, simply and obviously, would be VERY unwise. But they know that. So the approach will be to by small degrees. Start charging for all SMS that include the letter Q or any text emoticon (not suggesting that any handset makers are already complicit in this, oh no, not me, not all). Slow down transmission (even more). Deliberately reduce reliability (randomly don't forward around one in fifty SMS, but with a very high standard deviation to make this liess obvious to the punters).

        I'm sure there's plenty of other ways, but the key thing for the graspers running telcos is simply to make SMS less attractive,, less easy to use, so that punters actually choose the new paid formats.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Don't Want - Next thing they'll be trying to deprecate phones that can handle voice.

          " Deliberately reduce reliability (randomly don't forward around one in fifty SMS"

          I think they do this already -- I think that I don't receive about 1 out of 50 SMS messages that are sent. Or, even more infuriatingly, I sometimes receive the text four or five days after it was sent.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adblock for RCS anyone?

    Yeah

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voice, sms, messenger, WhatsApp, email

    I don't need more than that. Maybe this new heir will end up on new phones, but so what?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Voice, sms, messenger, WhatsApp, email

      You'll need it if the people you want to hear from start using it. You'll then have to make a choice about whether you use it or forgo communicating with them.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Voice, sms, messenger, WhatsApp, email

        If people require me to install a particular app to hear from them, then I don't need to hear from them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Voice, sms, messenger, WhatsApp, email

          Even if it's your boss? Very risky for job security, you know...

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Voice, sms, messenger, WhatsApp, email

      Hey, that's two more than I need. I have no use for messenger or WhatsApp (or any similar systems).

  13. Christian Berger Silver badge

    SIP is probably the worst standard to base this on

    Yes SIP currently is the de facto standard for phone calls, however it's a really complex protocol commonly implemented badly on all sides.

  14. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Business messaging continuing to grow. Er, you mean more spam than ever before.

    What's going to happen when PPI claims expire next year? Personal injures are at saturation point, so if there's nothing else, business messaging will collapse.

  15. JohnFen Silver badge

    I prefer paying

    "In the Silicon Valley era, '“I will give you a service and you will give me money for it” … is a quaint and unusual notion' – but, just maybe, people are reconsidering the trade-off"

    I prefer paying over "free" (if the "free" comes with tracking as a condition, and paying doesn't). However, this article makes it sound like RCS is primarily a means by which companies would communicate with me. There's exactly no chance that I'll pay for that. I'll stick with plain old SMS, thanks.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I prefer paying

      > this article makes it sound like RCS is primarily a means by which companies would communicate with me. There's exactly no chance that I'll pay for that.

      Come on, you know you want that "personalized, high quality experience", aka targeted advertisement you pay for and give your personal information to...

      (And if you don't, they'll just keep pretending you did. They know what's best for you.)

  16. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Anyone remember RCS

    ... as Revision Control System? The GNU alternative to sccs, before we had CVS, let alone modern systems like svn, git, hg.

    Guess I'm showing my age, but I struggle to think of RCS as anything else in a computing context.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Anyone remember RCS

      Actually, I still use RCS, for various latex documents I'm writing - it is simple, and just works. All it requires is a little bit of discipline about line breaks in order to keep the diffs useful.

  17. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Can we fix what's wrong with SMS?

    OK, what's wrong with SMS?

    - very limited control over what you allow/block

    - phone insists on beeping to alert me of sms.

    The first calls for much better address traceability, and better software. The second should be straightforward in just software, or by getting a better phone.

    I'm happy for them to develop a new protocol. Just so long as it doesn't start to become a integral to having a 'phone number, as SMS has done for mobiles.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Can we fix what's wrong with SMS?

      "- very limited control over what you allow/block"

      I can blacklist based on number, but yes, it could be better. Not a problem with the SMS protocol, but a problem with the software.

      "- phone insists on beeping to alert me of sms.""

      There is about a 99% chance that your phone has settings that can resolve this.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Can we fix what's wrong with SMS?

        I can blacklist based on number, but yes, it could be better. Not a problem with the SMS protocol, but a problem with the software.

        Up to a point, Lord Copper.

        My core desire is:

        1. Default: accept messages from valid senders provided the address is replyable.

        2. Default: reject messages from un-replyable addresses.

        3. Blacklist/whitelist on individual addresses (not just on a number).

        and a (for the time being) lesser thing:

        4. Rules-based filtering (e.g. "loans" --> reject).

        Current main bugbear is (2): does the protocol provide any means to determine whether an address is replyable? I suspect that might be a growing issue if GDPR doesn't stop most SMS spam.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    So it's unanimous then, We all say "Piss Off !!!"

    SMS is Simple Messaging Service.

    Not a bloated bandwidth sucking pain in the ass that one is acronymed as MSS which is so rich in (some) features it can handle sound and video.

    Most mobiles have become adept at interpreting emoticons, those lovely little excesses of joy.

    What more do you want than a brown turd on your screen to reinforce the plain text words, they've sent?

    Why would you want any more ?

    Emoticon:{puddle of piss}

    1. Dog Eatdog

      Re: So it's unanimous then, We all say "Piss Off !!!"

      SMS is Short Message Service, in fact.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: So it's unanimous then, We all say "Piss Off !!!"

      It's not simple, in fact there have been many broken implementations allowing you to crash a phone by SMS.

  19. David Roberts Silver badge

    Is the implied message

    That all Chat apps will eventually monetise your data?

  20. Munkstar

    Will they?

    40p if you add data to the text has been a great little earner.

  21. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    What did you say?

    “messaging is nicer on the iPhone”

    I know a lot of people with I-Phones and I can't remember one of them ever saying that. Apple was late again to the chat party and went again with a proprietary solution.

    In the same way that YouTube popularised video on the web, it was really WhatsApp that really popularised OTT chat services. As Andrew Orlowski noted at the time BlackBerry had already done everything with BBM but were just too slow in breaking out of the BlackBerry world; Microsoft could possibly done it with Skype but spent years fucking around. Essentially leaving the stage empty for WhatsApp (and a couple of others in some countries) to sweep up.

    1. Nick Pettefar

      Re: What did you say?

      I love Apple Messaging, it goes to my iPad, Macs and both my iPhones and I can answer from any device. I can send anything almost instantly and almost any size and of course for no cost. Comparing it to SMS is like comparing a telegraph to HD TV.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: What did you say?

        I could use Apple Messaging but only on my Mac. Telegram and Signal also work on my phone and Telegram also works on my Gemini.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What did you say?

      “messaging is nicer on the iPhone”

      No it isn't. In my experience, imessage is just the same as SMS, but with extra random latency added in when you have poor mobile reception, making the messages less useful.

    3. rskurat

      Re: What did you say?

      I hate the word "pivot" because it tries to make a panic-stricken company sound nimble & clever, but regarding Blackberry & Microsoft? Elephants don't pivot very well.

  22. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "the disappointment of MMS"

    Well, duh, if you charge 40p/message, what do you expect?

    Operators saw a way to charge for "SMS+". As always, they killed it though greed.

  23. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Does it come on a bun?

    Business messaging emerged as the secret sauce for RCS, in a world where SMS is an all-you-can-eat commodity, O'Byrne said.

    Let me see if I understand this. Something I can eat in unlimited quantities is bad. Something covered in sauce (well, secret sauce) is good. At least if that sauce is made out of "business messaging", which I think is just a blend of hollandaise and idiotic jargon. What if there's an unlimited buffet of sauce-covered foods?

    The real mystery, though, is that you continued to listen to O'Byrne after he said that. I'd've left.

  24. WereWoof

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/927/

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