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Google offers RCS messaging without the carrier in the middle. What does this mean for me?

Google does a lot of things. Services and products such as Search, Android or Chrome illustrate how Google has taken up an idea of ​​a meeting room and put it in the hands of everyone, and things have been improved through they. Remember Yahoo! or ask Jeeves?

Messaging has been the thorn on Google's side for years.

Messaging is not one of the areas in which Google found the right answer. That's not to say that the company does not have the right idea – rich chat services with media and all the charm that people want for free – it just has not been in able to find the only way to offer the complete package.

Making Android messages a complete RCS client was a good first step. RCS can give much of the iMessage or WhatsApp experience to your texts, but to do this, it depends on the support of the operator. And you know how difficult it can be to get the agreement of the four major US carriers, let alone the whole world. Taking control and applying a little of the "do it yourself" philosophy regarding RCS could be the only thing left.

What is RCS?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. The best way to describe it is to say that normal text messages look more like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

This is a set of rules from the GSM Association dealing with text formatting, video calls, attachments of multimedia files, emoticons and stickers, and even quick chats between your contacts. The GSM Association, however, does not require any company to use these rules and standards; this is the responsibility of the operators and companies that make the devices or software that use them. And all the companies involved do not use the standard in the same way.

Plus: What is RCS and why is it important for Android?

The GSMA insists that things change, both because the experience is better and SMS are in urgent need of being replaced. The service has not been designed for billions of users around the world. Its maintenance and operation are therefore expensive. Your phone operator wants to replace SMS, but he also wants to make his service unique and a selling point. Business is business, after all.

Most carriers in the West support RCS. They just do not support it the same way.

In the United States, the four major operators support all RCS in one form or another. And they're working on adopting the so-called universal profile for RCS, which would allow all SMS to work the same way, no matter what service or application you use. If you have already used something like Verizon Messages, you are using RCS. The same is true for T-Mobile's Advanced Messaging. You can also have a RCS chat using Android messages on some phones using certain operators.

It's a wonderful idea, constantly improved by the GSMA, and an advantage for carriers. But it takes forever make the change.

Is this a good thing?

Doing RCS alone is good for most. The way the company does it should postpone any antitrust litigation because you can register as soon as it will be available and if your carrier provides RCS services, it is the company that handles the mail. All that a user will know, is that he agreed to let Google handle his messages (the RCS texts sometimes have to go through a central server) and when they chat with another anyone who has a phone compatible with RCS, everything looks like whatsapp.

Your discussions improve and you have nothing to do. It sounds like a victory for me.

This is different from the other rich messaging platforms we have seen or used. You do not have to use a specific phone or brand, and you do not just chat with people who use the same phone company as you. You send messages the same way you always did, but some will support more features. When talking with a person using a phone that does not support RCS or who has chosen not to participate at all, everything is as before. No harm, no fault.

However, you will want to understand some things in terms of confidentiality.

  • encryption – RCS messages are not encrypted end-to-end. Messages are encrypted when they are transferred between you and your service provider (be it Google or an operator) and between the provider and the destination, but the provider has access. Google indicates that messages will be deleted once received, but attachments can be retained until all recipients have downloaded them. End-to-end encryption is something that can to be added to RCS, but in the meantime, you must know that the service provider will have access to your messages.
  • No multiple devices – At least not as a service like iMessage allows. RCS always depends on your phone number, for example SMS, so you will not be able to receive messages on a computer or tablet, unless your phone is the device used for sending and receiving , like Android messages for the web.
  • No centralized user database – Services such as Facebook Messenger or iMessage have a database indicating who uses the service and how. Android Messages with RCS enabled sends a request to the recipient's default email application to ask if it is compatible with RCS. If this is the case, the request is affirmed and both parties will be able to use the supplements provided by RCS. If it does not respond, you return to the usual SMS experience.
  • This is not available everywhere – Google is testing solutions in the UK and France and does not know when to plan an extended deployment.

Google has been trying to control some messages for a few years now. We've seen the rise and fall of Hangouts, services like Allo too few and too late, and live chats like the Kool-Aid Man. For a little over a year, Google has been doing great business on RCS and it 's a pleasure to see the company take the initiative and do it.

That does not solve everything – the lack of end-to-end encryption can be a bargain breaker for many (including myself) – but that should make text messaging a better experience for most people without install a specific application or buy a certain phone. And that's good news.

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