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
But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google
service. It’s just “Chat,” not “Google Chat.” In a sign of its
strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded
development on the new standard, so that every carrier’s Chat
services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won’t be
end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal
intercept standards. In other words: it won’t be as secure as
iMessage or Signal.
It is unconscionable for Google to back a new protocol that isn’t end-to-end encrypted. End-to-end encryption is table stakes for any new communication platform today. Apple should ignore this — if it’s not secure it should be a non-starter.