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And now everyone's talking about RCS
November 1, 2019

A conversational newsletter from Zendesk 

A few Februarys ago I took a trip to Florida to visit my grandmother and seek refuge from the Montreal winter.  

When I returned to the office my colleagues informed me that while I was gone, thousands of people around the world had filmed themselves wearing costumes and holding strange props while convulsively dancing to the same 30-second clip of a lesser-known dance track. 

More than 40,000 of these viral videos had been uploaded within the span of a few days, earning over 700 million views on YouTube. My teammates had even made a version of their own. But now, they assured me, the meme was “pretty much over.” 

I’d been away for less than two weeks and I had somehow missed the entire rise and fall of the Harlem Shake.


Back to the future of messaging 🐣

I was reminded of that last week upon returning from eight weeks of parental leave. 

While I was changing diapers and bonding with my newborn son, Instagram launched a standalone, Snapchat-like messaging app called Threads. It was declared a dud before I’d even heard about it. 

Anonymous messaging app Kik, which was once used by 40% of American teenagers, was the latest non-Facebook chat app to announce it was throwing in the towel — before being bought and rescued by tech holding company MediaLab a month later. 

Speaking of Facebook, their much-anticipated cryptocurrency, Libra, hit a number of roadblocks since I wrote about it in June. 

First, high-profile partners like Visa, Mastercard and Paypal seemed to be reconsidering their involvement. 

Then, Mark Zuckerberg’s contentious congressional hearing last week left The Verge wondering “whether Libra remained a viable project” at all. 

Along the way, Smooch’s purple heart changed its beat as we rebranded our business messaging platform Sunshine Conversations. And I was only gone two months!

(okay, so I might have had a heads up on that last one 😉)


RCS-capades ⛸

Luckily, one of the biggest advances in the conversational business world waited until I got back. 

For the last year and a half, I’ve been reporting on Google’s efforts to make RCS the new universal text messaging standard. 

Like iMessage or WhatsApp — and unlike old school SMS — RCS supports rich and interactive messaging features such as read receipts, typing indicators, group chats and verified business profiles. 

One of the longstanding roadblocks for RCS adoption is that it needs rival telcos and smartphone makers to work together, something they’ve been unable or unwilling to do for more than a decade. 

When we last checked in, Google had decided to take matters into its own hands by enabling Android users to opt in to RCS directly through Google instead of waiting for their phone carriers to support it. 

But now the script has been flipped. Last week the four major U.S. carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — announced a joint venture called the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative. 

The CCMI’s mission is to band together to replace SMS with RCS, which includes launching an RCS-based messaging app for Android by next year. 

You know who’s not included in the new squad or even mentioned in the press release? The Goog. 

What’s clear is that carriers see RCS as an opportunity to “drive a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem,” as they put it in their release. And they may be inclined to monetize the opportunity themselves, without the Silicon Valley giant getting a cut. 

As The Verge put it:
 

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It’s a lucrative opportunity, since asking lots of companies to set up services separately with every carrier (or, ahem, Google) is likely one of the things holding business adoption of RCS back.

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How do you like them, Apple? 🍏

Even with carriers finally playing nicely together, a couple major hurdles remain in the way of RCS success. The first is end-to-end encryption, which isn't supported on RCS, putting it out of step with increasingly privacy-minded consumers. 

The second is Apple. Apple still has iPhone users hooked on iMessage, particularly in North America. It also boasts its own interactive business messaging platform, Apple Business Chat, so it has little incentive to join the RCS express. 

But with telcos finally embracing RCS and reports of brands like Disney and McDonald’s launching campaigns on the channel, RCS’s stock just keeps getting richer and richer. 


Russian Eagles Test the Boundaries of SMS

One reason modern messaging has eclipsed basic texting is that, with OTT apps, consumers don’t have to worry about international roaming charges. 

A group of Russian scientists learned their lesson when Min, an eagle they were tracking with SMS transmitters, detoured into Iran. Texting rates there were considerably more expensive than the researchers had budgeted for, according to the BBC.

To recoup their costs, they launched a crowdfunder, dubbed “Top Up the Eagles’ Mobile.” The campaign will enable them to continue tracking the birds’ migration patterns, which helps with conservation efforts. 

To quote Gizmodo:

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Sounds to me like Asian telecom companies could band together to create a new, bird-specific phone plan.

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🤗 Thanks for reading! I hope you like our new design by the talented Faustine Gheno. Feel free to send me your feedback, story ideas and AWOL eagle sightings by responding to this email. 

Dan Levy
Editor-in-chief 
@danjl


Copyright © 2019 Smooch Technologies ULC.
5333 Casgrain Ave #1201, Montreal QC, Canada H2T 1X3
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